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Covid-19 brings fresh challenges for Maharashtra’s MVA govt

What has worsened the situation and public perception for Thackeray was Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s statement that his party was part of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi, but did not have a significant say in running the government.

Updated: May 27, 2020 10:40 IST

By Ketaki Ghoge and Swapnil Rawal, Hindustan Times Mumbai

Migrant with their family arrives at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus to board a special train to Uttar Pradesh organised by Maharashtra government during nationwide lockdown, imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in Mumbai. (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

The Uddhav Thackeray-led government in Maharashtra is feeling the heat over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the rise in the number of cases and fatalities. The state now has 54,758 Covid-19 cases, with Mumbai making up nearly three-fourths at 32,974 cases.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday hit out at the Thackeray-led government with former chief minister and leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis alleging the Thackeray-led government has lost its grip on the situation and Maharashtra needs “assertive leadership and bold decision-making”. In an online press conference on Tuesday evening, Fadnavis pointedly ruled out the claim that his party was making any attempts to bring down the government.

“In Mumbai, people are dying on the streets, hospitals are overcharging ... The numbers of cases and fatalities are alarming. On an average, we have done 3,500 tests every day for the last month and we have case positivity of 32% against the national average of 4.5%,” said Fadnavis.

“We are not a part of these statements or discussions. We are in no rush to form the government. We are focussing only on battling the coronavirus. The governor makes observations and independently reports to the Centre. We will continue to pressurise the government to wake up and address the grim situation before them...This government will fall on its own due to its internal contradictions.”

BJP MP Narayan Rane (who met the governor on Monday), sought President’s rule or Army’s help to tackle the situation.

There have also been hectic movements in the Raj Bhavan over last week, starting with Fadnavis leading the ‘Maharashtra Bachao’ agitation to governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari complaining against the state to NCP chief Sharad Pawar paying a “customary visit” and Rane calling for dismissal of the government.

What has worsened the situation and public perception for Thackeray was Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s statement that his party was part of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi, but did not have a significant say in running the government. The Congress is part of the MVA government with 11 ministers in the Thackeray’s cabinet. “We are only supporting the government and are not a key player,” said Gandhi. Fadnavis slammed the statement and said the Congress was shirking its responsibility.

Clarifying on claims of bias, Fadnavis said the Centre had given the state nearly ₹28,000 crore in the past three months through food subsidies, devolution of taxes, direct benefit transfer, assistance for migrant labourers and health equipment.

Both NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Sena MP Sanjay Raut rebuffed the claims of “instability” and “inefficiency”. Pawar said, “There are no differences in the MVA, there is no doubt that the government will last the entire term. It’s surprising that the BJP thinks the government in unstable. The meeting with the governor was customary. We are all focussing on coronavirus pandemic.” In an interview to NDTV, he also slammed Fadnavis for being “impatient”. “This period is painful for the Opposition. Politics is in quarantine. They must be doing this [speculating about the fall of the government] to kill their time. The Thackeray government of Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena will complete its full term,” said Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, speaking to reporters on Tuesday.

He added that Pawar met Thackeray to discuss the course of action for the state. “What is the harm in taking Pawar saheb’s suggestions and guidance on these matters? As you know, the country’s prime minister too takes his guidance.”

Pawar met Thackeray for 1.5 hours. This was his third meeting with the chief minister in recent weeks.

Responding to demands of President’s rule in Maharashtra, Raut said, “The situation in Gujarat is perfect for President’s rule. The Gujarat high court’s observations are serious. The governor there should summon the [Gujarat] CM and the Opposition party in Maharashtra should go there and launch an agitation.”

The state Congress also slammed the BJP saying they must first focus on their own states of Gujarat and UP.

Maharashtra Congress’s general secretary and spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the Gujarat High Court had remarked that the hospitals in Ahmedabad were “as good as dungeons”. “Even advocate general of the Gujarat government has admitted in his affidavit submitted to the court that the government was testing less as they fear that 70% of the population in Ahmedabad will be revealed infected if the tests are done. This means a minimum of 40 lakh people in Ahmedabad alone are infected people. The situation in other BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh is no different,” said Sawant.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik rushed to the defence of Gandhi and said there was nothing wrong in his statement. “It is a coalition government of three parties and we are all working together.”


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