Calls BJP-led Government’s decision of abolishing LBT as ‘foolish’
Demands probe under Commission of Enquiry Act against ministers Prakash Mehta and Subhash Desai, and Radheshyam Mopalwar
Says, loans taken by State Government are within prescribed ratio so not ‘unsafe’
“Congress has been in favour of alliance with like-minded forces. The alliance with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) worked well for Democratic Front Government in State. Sadly, in 2014, DF Government was ousted because of our ally,” said Prithviraj Chavan, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra and senior Congress leader.
In a candid interaction with mediapersons at the residence of Rajendra Mulak, former minister and District President of Congress, here on Friday, Chavan said that NCP broke the alliance with Congress owing to tough decisions taken by him as Chief Minister. “I took some tough decisions with honesty, but it was taken otherwise. However, I feel that Congress and NCP should join forces. We have always been in favour of the alliance,” he said.
Replying to a question, Chavan called the split within Congress leadership in Vidarbha as ‘unfortunate’. Taking an indirect dig at Ashok Chavan, President of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC), he said that it was the task of the State-level leadership to intervene and sort out the differences between two groups. “I had tried my level best to invite differing groups for talks, when I was Chief Minister. If required, the national level leadership also should be consulted for intervention,” said Chavan.
During interaction, Chavan flayed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led State and Central Governments. Reiterating his opposition to demonetisation effected by the BJP Government, he said that it was done to ‘encourage American credit card companies’. “Even if credit card companies are encouraged, I have no problem. But, it raises suspicion about motives when the Government does not make available any document relating to decision-making,” he said. Besides, he alleged, there are only promises but no action as far as putting in place a mechanism to regulate commission charged by credit card companies. Government has failed in creating Payments Regulatory Authority, he alleged. He observed that probably Prime Minister Narendra Modi was kept in dark by ‘some elements’ about benefits of demonetisation.
Asked about improvement in India’s global ranking in economic sector from 130 to 100, Chavan said, “Improvement is welcome. But, still we are at 100th position. This is definitely not a reason to celebrate considering the fact that India ranks third in purchasing power. Besides, in some critical aspects, India still ranks 164th or 170th.” However, when asked about the reasons that had pushed Indian economy to 130th position in past decades, he said that Indian position had been registering improvement since the launch of economic reforms in 1991.
The former Chief Minister flayed the BJP-led State Government for not meeting election promises. “How many of 30 lakh jobs have been created. What has happened to Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor? The land-pooling model has failed completely in case of acquiring land for the ambitious Nagpur-Mumbai Super Communication Expressway. Now, the Government is going for conventional method of land acquisition. There is absolutely no logic in this project. Similar is the case with other projects,” he observed.
Replying to a question regarding the Dhirubhai Ambani Aerospace Park in Multimodal International Hub and Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN) being projected as game-changer for Nagpur and Vidarbha, Prithviraj Chavan remarked, “How many of Anil Ambani’s projects have worked? See his track record.” He recalled that there was a dispute between Anil Ambani and DF Government regarding price of tickets for Mumbai Metro Phase-I. “Let us see what happens in case of Aerospace Park,” he added.
Chavan, who had dumped the demand of traders regarding abolition of Local Body Tax (LBT) when he was Chief Minister, dubbed the BJP-led Government’s decision of abolishing LBT as ‘foolish’. The municipal corporations in State were earning a revenue of Rs 6,000 crore to Rs 7,000 crore. Now, with Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, Central Government is giving compensation for municipal corporations’ earnings to State Government. At the rate of Rs 7,000 crore per annum, Maharashtra has lost the opportunity to get Rs 35,000 crore from the Centre as compensation in five years, Chavan said. Similar is the decision of the Government to abolish toll tax collection, he added.
Pointing out that the ministers Prakash Mehta and Subhash Desai, and Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) boss Radheshyam Mopalwar were facing corruption charges, Chavan said that he was not satisfied with the Government’s announcement of enquiry. He demanded probe to be conducted under Commission of Enquiry Act in all three cases. He expressed dissatisfaction over probe into ‘irregularities in irrigation project works’. “The problem with BJP Government is that it starts probe, but does not complete it. It lets the sword of probe hanging over the heads of persons involved. At best, this is a good political strategy,” he quipped.
Asked about Gosikhurd irrigation project getting delayed for years together mostly during DF Government’s tenure, Chavan said that the Government led by him had brought out a White Paper on Irrigation to inform the people as to what had happened. “We also may have committed some mistakes. But, our attempt was to make people aware. As far as the present-day Government is concerned, I feel that no one should repeat the past mistakes,” he elaborated.
Chavan also spoke on debt burden on State Government. However, he said, every country took loans for development works. “There is nothing wrong with taking loans for development works. Debt burden up to 23 per cent of State’s revenue is allowed. So, there is nothing to be alarmed about or to feel unsafe about. But, I feel that the capacity to repay the loans needs to be assessed while taking new loans,” he observed.
As far as the State Government’s decision to appoint a panel regarding merger of District Central Co-operative Banks (DCCBs) is concerned, Chavan said that the DCCBs must be protected. “There is no disagreement that those guilty of scams in DCCBs should be punished. At the same time, care needs to be taken to ensure that institutions are not destroyed for the fault of some individuals,” he added.
Atul Londhe, Spokesperson of the party, also was present during the interaction.