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Poll fever kicks in: Are the Maharashtra state cabinet announcements mere election sops?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014 - 7:48pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

After its severe drubbing in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, the Congress-NCP alliance in the state which is under immense pressure, is now trying to please different sections of the society ahead of the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections slated to take place later this year.

When the mood of the people in the state against the government due to rising inflation, corruption, scams, water crisis and farmers suicides, the state cabinet on Wednesday announced some important decisions in a bid to placate the people.  

The government, which had not been paying attention towards the long standing demand of the Dhangar community, has now accepted their demand for reservation. The Dhangar community has been agitating since the last few weeks, especially after the recent decision to allot a 16% reservation for Marathas and a 5% reservation for Muslims. Pressing for their demands, the community had even resorted to throwing ink on state Cooperative Minister Harshvardhan Patil. Though the reservation for Dhangar community will not help the Congress-NCP across the state, it would help them in the region of Kolhapur and Baramati. Further, the cabinet also decided to form a committee under Minister Dilip Sopal to study the reservation demand of the Lingayat Community. 

Meanwhile, with the sugar belt playing a vital role in the state politics, the cabinet also gave its nod to increase the capacity of bagasse based co-generation, which targets an increase of 1000 MW production. The sugar belt was the stronghold of the Congress-NCP, particularly Sharad Pawar’s NCP and constituted 12 Lok Sabha seats. But the alliance failed to even open its account in this Lok Sabha election, which drastically reduced the victory margin for the NCP. 

Also, in a U-turn from his staunch support to the implementation of the Local Body Tax (LBT)​, the cabinet rigorously took a decision to make it optional for Corporations to have the LBT or Octroi. This move seems to have been made in consideration to the vote bank in the Pune region as the traders’ community in Pune has been at the forefront in opposing the LBT.  

The Congress-NCP alliance had failed to perform well in Pune in the 2014 Lok Sabha and the 2009 state Assembly elections. In the 2009 Assembly elections, the Congress-NCP alliance had lost three out of six Assembly constituencies to the opposition Sena-BJP alliance, while in the Lok Sabha elections, Anil Shirole of BJP defeated Congress candidate Vishwajeet Patangrao Kadam by a margin of 3,15,769 votes.

Similarly, noting that several artistes were inclined towards the Sena-MNS during the recent Lok Sabha elections, the government has decided to hike their honorarium amount by 1.5 times with immediate effect.   

The cabinet's move to declare a water scarcity and waive off agricultural tax just a few weeks before the model code of conduct by the Election Commission is declared, even when the region of Marathwada and Vidharbha has been facing a severe water crisis for months, seems to be along the same lines.

The announcements made by the state cabinet clearly signal that the decisions have been taken keeping the Maharashtra Assembly elections in mind. But whether they will actually translate into votes for the Congress-NCP alliance still remains to be seen.

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