Though it is the Congress which holds the Leader of Opposition position in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, it finds its position as the lead opposition in the state being usurped by the Nationalist Congress Party. For the past year and a half, all the major issues in the state administration and the alleged corrupt practices of the BJP government have been exposed by the NCP. It is in the forefront when it comes to attacking the ruling party over various matters. The Congress, on its part, has barely been seen as raising its voice against any issues.
“Yes, it is true that the party has not been aggressive for the past year and a half. But we have realised this, and have been trying to change it now. You will hear lot more from us now,” a Congress leader told this correspondent.
“We have been taking our job as the opposition very seriously. In every field, we are trying to play the role of a responsible opposition. In future, we plan to be more aggressive, go to the public, and expose the inefficiency of this government,” said senior NCP leader Nawab Malik. “We have sought a white paper from this government on the issues of drought, unemployment, investment and the MoUs signed with the state. But the government has been trying to shy away from presenting the white paper,” he said further. When asked about the near absence of Congress as the lead opposition, he refused to comment. “It is that party’s question. How can I say anything?” he asked.
But other sources from the party said that at times the NCP had to justify the steps taken by the Congress during its rule. “We were allies. We were in the government together. But today, when someone points a finger at some of our decisions, we are the only ones to go and put forth our stand. Congress is in a state of disarray in Maharashtra,” a party leader said.
Political leaders across the spectrum pointed out that the Congress was suffering due to a lack of proper leadership. “Look at their leadership line. Ashok Chavan is the chief of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. But he maintains a low profile, hardly interacts, because he has been named in the Adarsh scam. Now, the Governor has also given permission to CBI to prosecute him in the case. Prithviraj Chavan has administrative experience, but he is not seen as a leader with grassroots connections. There are very few competent individual leaders in the party, and even they don’t seem to come together,” a leader of NCP said on condition of anonymity.
On the other hand, the NCP has organised itself well, and utilised every opportunity to criticise the government over issues of drought, unemployment, opaqueness about the MoUs signed with different companies during the “Make In India” week. “We have organised the party structure in such a way that our grassroots presence is strong and people connect with us. Our rally in Marathwada against the drought situation garnered lot of public support. Supriyatai Sule gave a presentation in Parliament about the drought situation. At every district level, we have appointed a senior party leader. These are persons who had worked as guardian ministers when we were in power. Thus, they are very well connected with the people. They know the local issues. Whenever they pitch an issue, we take it up aggressively. Moreover, a team leader tours the district continuously. This way, we stay rooted with the people and take up matters that are important to them,” Malik said. He claimed that the result of the efforts will be visible in the next elections. “Already, in places like Nashik, Marathwada, Jalna, villages have put up hoardings which say, ‘Pawar Saheb, we were wrong in voting for Kamal (lotus).’ Even jewellers in Mumbai held placards a few days ago which read, ‘Ek hi bhool, kamal ka phool!’We will regain our lost ground in the next elections.” But he refused to comment on the lack of aggressive presence of the Congress in the state. The NCP leadership has realised that it will have to walk hand-in-hand with the Congress. “After all, we are natural allies. In future elections, we will want to fight it out with them on our side,” a senior NCP leader told this paper.