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Maharashtra assembly may revoke suspension of 19 opposition MLAs

LiveMint logoLiveMint 26-03-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Maharashtra has indicated that it may revoke the suspension of 19 legislators belonging to the opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Maharashtra’s parliamentary affairs minister Girish Bapat on Saturday said the government was amenable to the opposition demand to revoke the suspension. Legislative assembly speaker Haribhau Bagde had suspended 19 legislators, 10 from NCP and 9 from Congress, on 22 March on the government’s recommendation for “insulting the house and creating ruckus during budget presentation”. Both opposition parties have described suspension as “murder of democracy and an attempt to muzzle the opposition’s voice on the issue of farm debt waiver”.

“It is not as if we are not in favour of revoking the suspension. We do not want to force the opposition members to not attend the proceedings. Opposition members should come to the legislature on 29 March and we will sit with them to take a decision in this regard,” Bapat told the assembly on Saturday. 

Though Bapat said the suspension could be revoked this week, opposition parties have decided to continue with their planned protest across the state against suspension and for the farm loan waiver. Congress and NCP have announced a “Sangharsh Yatra” from Chandrapur in Vidarbha to Panvel near Mumbai which will start on 29 March. Chandrapur is the home town of Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.

Behind the government’s climbdown is the intention to spike the opposition protest before it could even begin, a BJP minister said requesting anonymity, adding the government needed the opposition’s support to pass key bills in both the houses of the state legislature. Maharashtra has a bicameral legislature and the BJP-led government does not have a majority in the Legislative Council. On Saturday, the opposition in both the houses agreed to pass the appropriation bill only after Bapat’s assurance that suspension would be revoked. 

“Almost the entire budget session so far has been a washout on the issue of farm debt waiver. Even after suspension, opposition legislators have continued their protest on this issue. We don’t want them to set the agenda for the remainder of the session,” said the BJP minister.

Ever since the session began on 6 March, little business has been transacted with opposition parties and even ally Shiv Sena demanding a loan waiver. The government has so far maintained that while it is committed to making farmers debt-free, a blanket farm deb-waiver would put enormous financial burden on the state and adversely affect the state’s capacity to make capital investment in the farm sector for long-term solutions to the agrarian crisis. The opposition and Shiv Sena have, however, kept up the pressure by reminding the BJP that it has promised farm loan waiver during Uttar Pradesh polls. 

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