The opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis’s revelations gave ruling party leaders sleepless nights. On one hand, BJP’s Kirit Somaiya openly attacked and on the other hand, Devendra was in full action exposing the vaults of ruling party leaders including the relatives of Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray.
Fadnavis has become unstoppable and given insomnia to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and home minister Dilip Walse-Patil following a series of exposes. When the home department, then led by NCP minister Anil Deshmukh, was probing in the dark in the Antilia bomb scare case last February, it was BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis who had disclosed the involvement of now-dismissed API Sachin Vaze and that the businessman whose SUV was used for transporting the gelatin sticks was missing. Later, the businessman was found dead.
Thackeray, while speaking in the legislative Assembly in reply to a concluding week motion on Friday, alleged the central agencies being used as ‘Shikhandi’ in Mahabharat as they have not been able to face MVA. He said his government is ready to take them head-on if they dare to, but in reality, the MVA leaders are running to polls to save their soles. Yes, it’s a power game, BJP certainly doing this for the sake of sovereignty. Uddhav Thackeray needs to understand just giving emotional speeches is not enough to deal with ongoing attacks. Thackeray government’s two leaders and their aides are already in jail. If the actions taken by the central agencies are condemnable, perverse and malicious then MVA should come in counter with proving their innocence. MVA needs to clean its carpet and call for counterattacks.
On March 22, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) froze assets worth Rs 6.45 crore belonging to Thackeray’s brother-in-law Shridhar Patankar. Income tax raided the premises of several people close to Aaditya Thackeray, the state environment minister, on March 8. ED arrested former home minister Anil Deshmukh (November 2, 2021) and state minister Nawab Malik (February 23, 2022) in connection with money laundering cases. So far the Thackeray government did not come out rendering any explanation for these raids. Anyways the entire budget session went in attacks and counter-attacks, but merely any productive outcome.
The budget session of the state legislature saw three major announcements for lawmakers – raise in the local area development fund to Rs 5 crore, hike in the salary of personal assistants and drivers by Rs 5,000, and 300 low-cost houses for members of both the houses. However, these provisions have stimulated sharp reactions, especially when the legislators are already getting various other benefits apart from the salary and pension.
The announcement of 300 high-income group houses for MLAs and MLCs from outside the Mumbai Metropolitan Region was made by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. A few MLAs, including Congress’s Praniti Shinde, Zeeshan Siddiqui and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s Raju Patil, said they would not wish to opt for the facility and instead, the money spent on them should be utilized for the welfare of the poor.
The backlash compelled the government to clarify that each house would cost Rs 70 lakh. The houses are meant only for the legislators who do not have any house in their name and who are from outside MMR. This housing scheme is nothing but a gross misuse of public money. The corrupt politicians who already possess amassed wealth and Benami wealth, do they really need these schemes?
Maharashtra has 288 MLAs, 78 MLCs, and more than 800 former members of the Assembly or Council. Apart from the salary and pension, the incumbent and former lawmakers and their dependent family members get cashless Mediclaim for which the government pays Rs 15 crores a year as a premium. The state recently extended the cap on the price of the car for MLAs to Rs 30 lakh from Rs 10 lakh on which the interest is paid by the government if the vehicle is purchased on loan. The government is expected to bear the annual burden of Rs 2.4 crores towards interest on the loan, according to officials from the finance department.
The salary, pension and the local area development fund have increased multifold in the last few years. The salary has gone up to Rs 2.61 lakh from around Rs 75,000 until 2016, while the pension has risen to Rs 50,000 per month and an additional Rs 10,000 per term served by the legislator. The area development fund has seen a jump by Rs 1 crore every year for the last three years to take it to Rs 5 crore from Rs 2 crore until 2019-20.
SM Deshmukh, who had moved the Bombay High Court against the pension to the legislators. The pension given to the legislators is not justified. Some of the former lawmakers have been getting as much as Rs 1.20 lakh a month as a pension, while some get it from parliament and state legislature as well. The assets declared by legislators show how wealthier they are and the perks are given to them do not justify considering their financial background. The state government has been announcing sops for the legislators to keep them united in the wake of the political uncertainty the government is reeling under.
Opposition leaders need to pull their socks not only pointing out the corruption by ruling party leaders but the misuse of government funds.