The ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra is not at all amused with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s statement that the Lavasa Hill City project was crucial for the state and his asking the Ministry of Environment and Forests to grant the project an early clearance.
In fact, fuming over the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s move to initiate criminal proceedings against Lavasa Corporation’s promoter, directors and officials for violation of green law, the NCP is blaming the CM for taking too much time in recommending the project for a green nod.
On the other hand, the Congress has adopted a wait-and-watch policy, saying the law would take its own course. Both Congress and NCP have been engaged in a verbal duel over the issues of deteriorating power crisis, implementation of infrastructure projects, allocation of funds to the underdeveloped Vidarbha and Marathwada regions and, more recently, on carrying out work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
The NCP still believes the state pollution control board’s move was an attempt by the Congress to checkmate Pawar ahead of elections to the 196 municipalities, 10 municipal corporations and 27 zilla parishad in December and March next year. Pawar, during his chief ministership in 1994, had encouraged the hill city project, and has been defending it consistently.
A Congress minister who did not want to be identified, told Business Standard, “Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is a known Pawar-baiter, has taken a huge political risk by resorting to this move. It is a reality that the CM gave a positive statement on Lavasa only after meeting party president Sonia Gandhi. However, it is to be seen how the NCP reacts. Both parties cannot neglect the fact that widening differences between them will be harmful ahead of the civic and local body elections.”
The Congress minister was categorical in his view that the NCP will not pull out of the government, both at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
On the other hand, an NCP minister said, “We are quite clear that the CM should not look at every file or proposal with suspicion. Transparency in administration is all right but he should put decision-making on fast track and avoid embarrassing the NCP. As far as Lavasa is concerned, the project has been given all 59 clearances and, practically, there has not been any communication between the Centre and the state government during 2004-2010. Now, suddenly, the issue of violation of Environment Protection Act, 1986, has been raked up. In what way is Pawar or the party involved? It was the decision of the state government and not Pawar, in particular, to encourage the hill city. The Congress should not go overboard in isolating Pawar or NCP, but try to take them into confidence, especially when the UPA-II is sailing through rough weather.”