Issues which could haunt Congress-NCP in Assembly election

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Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan
Assembly elections are round the corner in Maharashtra but the ruling Congress-NCP alliance is still in a quandary over how to approach the State polls after nearly complete rout in recently concluded Lok Sabha poll.

While, the saffron alliance is confident of repeating its good show in the Assembly poll too, the Congress-NCP alliance which is in power for the last 15 years seems to be on back foot. The 15-year long stint of Congress-NCP Government was marred by series of scam and controversies. The Congress remained busy in making cosmetic changes to improve its image and failed to deliver results. So far, the party has changed five CMs since 1999 and sixth occupant of the office, Prithviraj Chavan with a 'clean image' was not able to ward-off controversies. Below is the list of several issues which could haunt Congress-NCP alliance in upcoming elections.

Adarsh Housing Scam:

The multi-crore Adarsh Housing scam was unearthed in 2010 in which former Congress Legislator Kanhaiyalal Gidwani along with the Adarsh society's chief promoters RC Thakur, Retd Brigadier Wanchoo and PV Deshmukh, a Government official were arrested in 2010. The scam was discovered when an illegal 104-apartment society was built on one of the costliest real estate stretches in South Mumbai. Flats in the Adarsh housing society in the Colaba area had been cornered at very high prices. The society was originally meant to be a six-storey structure to house Kargil War heroes and their relatives, but was later extended to 31 floors allegedly without mandatory permission.

The scam had rocked the Congress-NCP Government in Maharashtra leading to the then Chief Minister Chavan's resignation. He was then replaced by Prithviraj Chavan. Union Ministers Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh, who are both former Maharashtra Chief Ministers, are also under the scanner. Adarsh scam probe report submitted in the State Assembly indicted several top party leaders from the State in December last year which led to a massive rebellion within the ranks. The party's State and central leadership had later forced the State Cabinet to blindly reject it.

Irrigation scam:
The Irrigation Scam in Maharashtra is one of the largest scandals to hit the State in recent times. The seeds of the scam were sown with the NCP holding the Water Resources portfolio after coming to power in 1999. For 10 years, projects estimated to be between Rs. 55,000 - Rs. 60,000 crore were cleared by Water Resources Minister Ajit Pawar. Most of these projects were never completed.

52 frauds brought major embarrassment to Congress-NCP Government

According to the Economic Survey of Maharashtra 2012, while irrigation projects cleared in the State were the costliest in India, there was only a 0.1% increase in area under irrigation. Pawar's successor Sunil Tatkare too has cleared projects worth Rs 10,000 crore, bringing the total tally of projects to nearly Rs 70,000 crore. No conclusive reports confirm the allegations against the NCP regarding their involvement in the irrigation scam. However, a few leaders of the NCP have been accused of massive corruption, nepotism and windfall gains.

Governance failure:
Congress has been in power in the State since 1999 and this period saw a sharp decline in governance. The entire period of one and half decade has been marked by rampant corruption, arrogant, insensitive attitude of the State administration, deteriorating Law & Order and large number of farmers committing suicide.

Farmers' agony overlooked:
Maharashtra is faced with worst kind of agrarian crisis and thousands of farmers committed suicide in the last one decade. The prime cause for the farmers' agony was poor irrigation infrastructure, grossly overlooked by the ruling alliance. Between 1999 and 2003, over 16,000 farmers committed suicide in the State. In the next nine years of Congress-NCP rule in Maharashtra, a whopping 33,702 farmers ended their life.

Among other, NCP chief Sharad Pawar's alleged role in the IPL and the multi-crore Lavasa city project controversies and 52 other frauds involving land deals brought major embarrassment to the Congress-NCP Government in the State.

During the last Assembly election in 2009, the NCP had contested in 114 seats and Congress in 174 in the 288-member House but in recently concluded Lok Sabha poll ruling party's 2009 tally of 17 seats (besides its ally NCP's 8 seat) crashed to 2 (NCP won 4 seats). The trends clearly shows that there is tough road ahead for the Congress-NCP alliance in coming days.

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