NAGPUR: The winter session of Maharashtra Legislature is likely to be stormy for the ruling combine of BJP-Shiv Sena with the opposition Congress and NCP seeking to put the new government on mat over issues pertaining to farmers and drought.
Moreover, the Congress and NCP, which had been at the helm in the state for three consecutive terms and thus aware of nitty-gritty of administration, may find it easy to corner the newly-anointed ministers, most of them first-timers.
This will be the first major session of the Devendra Fadnavis-led government after November 12 when the BJP had won a crucial trust vote on the floor of House with its then estranged partner Shiv Sena in opposition.
However, Sena is now part of the government with ten of its leaders being already allocated berths. With the participation of Sena, which has 63 MLAs, Fadnavis government now has the much-needed cushion to ward off any attack from the opposition.
Suicides by farmers and drought conditions in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions are going to be prominent issues in the Assembly session with the NCP and Congress accusing the government of "doing precious little" for farmers.
Congress deputy leader in Assembly Vijay Vadettiwar said, "The new BJP-led government has failed to address the issues of agriculturists in Vidarbha where farmer suicide has once again raised its ugly head.
"The number of farmer suicides so far this year stood at 568 and a drought-like situation is looming large in parts of Vidarbha and entire Marathwada," Wadettiwar told PTI here yesterday.
NCP has already demanded waiver of crop loans and electricity bills of the drought-affected farmers.
"NCP will raise issues of drought and welfare of affected farmers in upcoming Winter Session of the state legislature in Nagpur," the party spokesman Nawab Malik had said last week.
As many ministers, barring a few, are first time inductees- twenty of them allocated portfolios yesterday--they may find it tough to tackle the aggressive opposition on issues concerning their respective ministries.
On the contrary, opposition has a battery of leaders like former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil of Congress and Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, R R Patil of NCP who have years of experience as ministers in their earlier roles.
This session is going to start without a Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly as Sena's Eknath Shinde, who had been holding the post until now, has been made a cabinet minister in the BJP government.
NCP as well as Congress are eyeing the post of Leaders of Opposition in Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council. NCP also wants the post of Chairman of Council.
Congress veteran Shivajirao Deshmukh is incumbent chairman of the Council while senior BJP leader Haribhau Bagde is the Speaker.
NCP may formally stake the claim for the post of Leader of Opposition this evening.
NCP has 41 MLAs but claims to have support of four more from its alliance partners.
Though Congress has 42 MLAs its effective strength in the House is 37 since five of its MLAs had been suspended by Speaker for a period of two years for manhandling Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao when they tried to block his entry into the House to address a joint sitting of the legislature on November 12 when Fadnavis government faced the trust vote.
In the 78-member Upper House, the NCP has 28 members.
"We are the single largest party in the 78-member Upper House with 28 members and, hence can rightfully claim the post of Leader of Opposition as well as that of Chairman. We are currently discussing how to proceed in this matter," senior NCP leader Nawab Malik had said.
If NCP indeed stakes the claim to the post of Chairman of Council, it will have to bring a no-confidence motion against him as per the procedure.
BJP has 121 MLAs and its ally Sena has 63 MLAs in the 288-member Assembly.
The Business Advisory Committee of the legislature may meet on December 18, if it feels so, to consider extending the duration of the session which is supposed to end on December 19.
Meanwhile, a House panel, set up to probe the charges against five suspended MLAs of Congress, will also meet and submit its report in the session.
Congress will hold a protest march on the first day of the session tomorrow while accusing the government of "failing" to provide immediate relief to drought-hit areas.
Congress has also asked the government to set up cotton procurement centres and provide compensation to soybean- growers.