Bankrupt state plans Rs 2,303-cr bonanza for Cong-NCP legislators
With an eye on the approaching elections, the state government plans to dole out Rs 10 crore to each of the 224 leaders from the governing alliance, to fund projects of their choice; no such sops for Opposition legislators.
It’s a windfall for legislators who represent the governing alliance in the state. Ignoring the precarious financial health of the state, the Congress-led Democratic Front government plans to allocate Rs 2,303 crore exclusively for projects recommended by as many as 224 of its representatives.
Needless to say, the fast-tracking of these projects, once approved by the state legislature, will come at a cost, and may involve a 5 per cent cut on the state’s annual budget for the ongoing fiscal, highly placed sources told MiD DAY.
The decision is timed to perfection, coming at a moment of intense preparation for the approaching elections -- to the Lok Sabha and later to the State Assembly. The governing Congress-NCP alliance seems desperate to dole out sops to its legislators, and seems to have concluded that Rs 10 crore for each of them is a suitable reward.
Significantly, leaders who owe allegiance to the Opposition parties have been left out in the cold, a decision that is likely to raise a storm in the monsoon session of the State Legislature, which started on Monday.
All the projects have been drawn up in a grand list of supplementary demands, which is to be introduced by the state government in the state legislature.
Supplementary demands have to be placed before the legislature for approval each time the government decides to dole out money for projects that have not been included in the regular annual budget.
Approval is subject to a vote, and the government of course has enough representatives in the legislature to get them.
The legislators representing the governing parties were recently asked to submit lists of projects that they wanted completed on priority basis in their respective constituencies. Predictably, most of representatives recommended projects pertaining to the state Public Works Department, such as roads and construction of public utility buildings. Others requested projects that involve irrigation, municipal bodies, MHADA, social justice and tribal development.
There was a flurry of activity in the past few days as legislators scrambled to submit their recommendations on time. The Congress Party formed teams of ministers for each of the six revenue divisions of the state. In Mumbai, the task was given to Congress ministers Suresh Shetty and Prof Varsha Gaikwad, with the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s office giving the final touches. Congress’ list contains projects recommended by 121 legislators -- 82 party MLAs, 15 independent MLAs who support the government and 24 MLCs. These leaders collectively claimed a lion’s share of the allotment -- a staggering Rs 1,260 crore.
NCP, the coalition partner, allotted the task to its ministers Jaidutta Kshirsagar, Sunil Tatkare and Sachin Ahir. The list was compiled at the office of Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, who also heads the finance and planning department.
According to sources, the finance department was unhappy at the prospect of the unforeseen imposition, as it will now have a tough time eking out the funds for the colossal expenditure. One of the options at its disposal is a five per cent cut to the general budget for the current year, and diverting funds allotted previously to other projects. This is purely a political move to please party legislators, rued a senior functionary of the Democratic Front.
NCP has a list of 103 legislators, comprising 62 members from the State Assembly, 13 independents and 28 members of the State Council. The party is also believed to have taken leaders of the Samajwadi Party under its wing in exchange for support -- MLA Abu Asim Azmi is likely to get Rs 3 crore for his constituency and Dhananjay Munde, estranged nephew of BJP leader Gopinath Munde, may get Rs 10 crore to invest in Parli, located in Beed district.
Since MiD DAY’s revelation that the alliance was planning to dole out special funds for its representatives and supporters funds, leaders in the Opposition parties of BJP and Shiv Sena have been busy drafting a strategy of protest. Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse confirmed that the Opposition will be raising the issue in the legislature soon.
Meanwhile, ‘lack of funds’ have stalled these projects
Thane Creek Bridge: The cash-strapped state road development corporation MSRDC needs Rs 400 crore for the project. It wrote to the MMRDA to partly fund the project, but the request was turned down
Sports complexes: Several proposals for sports complexes are pending with the BMC, which has cited the state government’s inability to grant funds as the chief hindrance.
Transport projects: Many projects under Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) for addition of new lines, more FOBs and construction of stations are in limbo.
BMC grants: Not just projects, the state also owes Rs 2,200 to the civic agency in the form of grants. These grants have been pending for over two years now.
The Churchgate-Virar elevated corridor: The project is in limbo, as private developers who showed interest in it are skeptical about the railways and state government meeting the viability fund, in case the cost of the project goes up in future.
Who gets what
The list of requirements placed before the legislature:
State PWD: Rs 953.54 crore
Urban Development department: Rs 843.61 crore
Social Justice department:
Rs 316.46 crore
Rs 237.11 crore
Rural development department: Rs 148.17 crore
Tribal development department: Rs 153.85 crore