Toll drama: After Raj Thackeray makes fiery threats, govt shows up at his doorstep
Living its tagline ‘Sarkar aplya daari (the government at your doorstep), the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government walked into the Shivaji Park residence of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray on Friday to announce jointly the measures to be taken to correct the irregularities in road toll collection that the MNS had been protesting for over a decade.
Raj had done it before, but not this way. CMs, senior leaders and bureaucrats have visited him, on his invitation or otherwise. As always, Raj prevailed on Friday in his fiefdom. He did most of the talking as Minister of Public Works (Public Undertaking) Dada Bhuse (Shinde Sena) played second fiddle and conceded to some impromptu suggestions Raj made during the press conference. Asked about the mantri and senior bureaucrats coming down to visit him, a smiling Raj reproduced the tagline ‘Sarkar aplya daari’.
This particular government meeting, held at a private residence of a party head who does not hold any constitutional post, was absolutely an aberration, obviously made under the instructions of Shinde. The two leaders share a past—their stints in the united Shiv Sena. Raj held a much higher position in the Sena hierarchy before leaving it. Observers said that protocol was put aside out of Shinde's respect for Raj, who can be as unpredictable as weather forecasters when it comes to slamming the competition or siding with it.
Breather for Shinde
Recently, Raj had lapped up a statement made by DCM Devendra Fadnavis that four-wheelers were exempted from paying toll at ‘all’ plazas across the state. He created a super buzz that finally ended in his party’s favour. He demanded to know from Fadnavis why toll was still being collected at Mumbai’s entry points and other plazas. Friday's meeting turned out to be a win-win situation for both Shinde and Raj. Both claim the credit for making reasonable corrections.
A political commenter said an ally like Raj can provide Shinde with a breather while he has to fend five—the rival Sena (UBT), NCP’s two factions, the Congress and the BJP. Among these, two are in the government with the CM’s party, matching move by move in the game of one-upmanship within the tripartite arrangement. As far as the forthcoming elections are concerned, Raj hasn't yet fully revealed his cards.
‘Is there some parallel govt?’
Congress, meanwhile, reacted sharply to the meeting, asking whether there was a kind of parallel sarkar. “The government is expected to take up the issue raised by the Opposition at its cabinet meeting, not at someone's private residence. It cannot send its minister and officials to some private residence for official meetings,” said Atul Londhe, the party's state chief spokesperson.
He added that the “crazy” government had lost the trust of the public. “Minister Bhuse has shown that whoever wishes may run a parallel government. There is corruption and the government has proven that it is corrupt. To allow the MNS to install cameras in addition to those installed by the government at toll plazas is unconstitutional,” he added.