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Tuesday 28 January 2020

BJD to be rewarded, but what’s cooking with NCP?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not praise any section of the opposition by accident; the appreciation of the BJD and NCP gave indications of BJP's deals with these regional parties

The Narendra Modi government may bring a Constitution Amendment Bill for the creation of a Legislative Council in Odisha with the intention of keeping the BJD close to the BJP. The BJD has supported the government on several important occasions in the Rajya Sabha during the last five years and, for the past year, it has been pressuring the Centre to form a Legislative Council.

The BJD has received solid assurance from the Centre about this. It is expected that this bill may be introduced in this session of Parliament.

Although the NDA has a working majority in the Rajya Sabha, a clear majority is still elusive. The Shiv Sena has left the ruling coalition, reducing the NDA’s strength by three seats. Seven seats of the BJD thus assume importance.

The working majority that the BJP enjoys is also due to the BJD. When the BJP’s seats were fewer in the past, the BJD supported the government on important occasions or avoided voting against the government with abstentions.

The BJD government of Odisha passed a resolution last year to create a 49-seat Legislative Council. The proposal is with the Centre. If the Union government approves the resolution, a Constitution Amendment Bill needs to be passed in Parliament. There is a provision to create a Legislative Council under Article 169 of the Constitution.

14 claimants other than Odisha ruled by BJD

According to BJD sources, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has spoken to Prime Minister Modi on this issue. The BJD had raised the issue also during the recent all-party meeting. Later, with the Prime Minister praising the BJD, the ruling party of Odisha hopes that the Centre will take a decision on the matter soon.

According to sources in the Union government, the matter is being considered seriously. The government can bring a Constitution Amendment Bill to keep the BJD in good humour.

The challenge before the central government in this matter is that not Odisha alone but 10 States have demanded their respective Legislative Councils. Among these, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are the States which previously had Legislative Councils, which were later abolished. These states have now renewed their demand.

On the other hand, four other States, namely Delhi, Himachal, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, want a Legislative Council each, too. If the demand for Odisha is considered, other States will heighten their pressure on the Centre.

Currently, there are Legislative Councils in six States, namely Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra, whereas due to the partition of Jammu and Kashmir, the Legislative Council has ended there.

Usually, the ruling party sends its candidates who have not been able to get tickets or who have lost elections to the Legislative Council. Some seats are spared for teachers and other intellectual professions.

BJP-NCP government in Maharashtra?

The other party that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had praised during his opening speech for the winter session of Parliament was the NCP. While the prime minister had promptly clarified that he had praised the BJD and NCP MPs for never marching to the well of the House, his speech set tongues wagging about some changing political equations.

Political stirring in Maharashtra intensified yesterday when Prime Minister Modi met with NCP chief Sharad Pawar in New Delhi. After the meeting of these two leaders in the midst of the ongoing hurly-burly over the formation of government in the State, now political observers are not ruling out an ideological mash as ironical as a Shiv Sena joining hands with the INC and NCP.

An NCP and BJP coalition government can be formed in Maharashtra while Pawar’s party can additionally get three important ministries at the Centre, say sources.

Sources in the NCP say Sharad Pawar could be offered even the post of president of the country in 2022.

In Maharashtra, in the last few days, the exercise of forming a coalition government of Shiv Sena, NCP and INC has intensified. However, in the meantime, Pawar created new suspense by making a statement that he had had no discussion with Sonia Gandhi to form the State government.

What’s more interesting, when Pawar was asked what are the chances of forming a government with Shiv Sena were, he said, “Ask BJP and Shiv Sena; both were together.”

Some MPs of NCP have appealed to Pawar to go with the BJP to form the Maharashtra government, say sources. These politicians are trying to convince Ajit Pawar for this, too.

If the NCP were to join hands with the BJP to form the State government, it would get many important posts in the State Cabinet and the party will also be given three important posts at the Centre.

The NCP chief had written a letter to Prime Minister Modi where he raised the issue of crop failure of farmers in Maharashtra. Pawar wrote in the letter, “I have data of crop losses in two districts. Marathwada, Vidarbha and Maharashtra have suffered damage due to heavy rains. We are collecting the relevant data, after which it will be sent to you. Due to President’s rule in the state, your immediate intervention is necessary. I will be grateful if you take steps to solve the problems of troubled farmers.”

Now, while sources in the NCP say that a special package for the farmers of Maharashtra can be touted by them as the ‘benefit’ they extracted from the Centre, not everybody in the BJP is excited by the prospect. A senior leader said embracing Pawar would mean not pursuing the cases of corruption against him and Praful Patel. Saying “I do not believe Modi ji will make Pawar the next President of India”, the leader added under the condition of anonymity that such a deal will dent the image of an anti-corruption crusader that the prime minister has built with “sustained measures” against black money hoarders.

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