Anil Deshmukh's arrest, MSRTC strike, OBC quota, NCB may rock Maharashtra winter session


MUMBAI: The winter session of the Maharashtra legislature to be held between December 22 and 28, is likely to generate much heat as the opposition BJP may corner the Shiv Sena-led state government over a host of issues, including the OBC reservation stalemate, the ongoing strike of MSRTC workers, the arrest of former minister Anil Deshmukh, among others.

The Maratha quota issue, the COVID-19 management in view of the emergence of the Omicron variant, issues surrounding the arrest of Aryan Khan, son of Shah Rukh Khan, in a drugs case, and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) zonal officer Sameer Wankhede’s caste credentials, are also likely to rock both the Houses of the legislature.

The winter session in Maharashtra is generally held in Nagpur, the second capital of the state, but it is being held in Mumbai for the second time in a row due to the pandemic.

Former home minister and NCP leader Anil Deshmukh, who had resigned from the cabinet in April following charges of corruption, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in November in a money-laundering case.

The case against Deshmukh and others was made out after the CBI booked him in a corruption case related to allegations of at least Rs 100 crore bribery made by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh, who was suspended by the state government earlier this month.

The arrest of Deshmukh and suspension of Param Bir Singh are two of the issues that the BJP is likely use to attack the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, in which Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress share power, during the winter session this time.

NCP minister Nawab Malik has been targeting NCB officer Wankhede, who had led the raid on a cruise ship off Mumbai coast in October this year, where it allegedly recovered drugs during a raid on a cruise ship off the Mumbai coast, following which Aryan along was arrested along with others.

Malik targeted Wankhede, alleging that he was born a Muslim but got his job in the Scheduled Castes quota by obtaining a bogus caste certificate.

Wankhede denied the allegation and his father filed a defamation suit against Malik.

This ongoing issue is also likely to figure during the session.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who has resumed official work after a cervical spine surgery, is likely to attend the proceedings and the BJP is set to target him for not being on the field.

The post of the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly has been lying vacant since February this year after Nana Patole resigned in order to take charge as the state Congress chief.

However, there is no official mention about the election of speaker in the agenda of the session finalised so far.

The state government has maintained that the election couldn’t be held earlier due to the pandemic.

As per the tradition, the election of the assembly speaker has always been done unanimously, but this time, the government is concerned that the BJP may ask for an election through ballot.

Therefore, the government plans to the amend the existing rules to enable that the speaker is elected through a voice vote on the floor of the house.

Three-time Congress MLA from Bhor in Pune district, Sangram Thopte, is the frontrunner for the coveted post.

The employees of the Maharashtra State Transport Corporation (MSRTC) have been on a strike since the last nearly two months over their demand of the transport body’s merger with the state government.

Their protest has posed hardships for the common people.

Transport minister Anil Parab, who is a close aide of CM Thackeray, is facing severe criticism over the handling of the issue.

The Supreme Court earlier this year quashed quota for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in local bodies after observing that the total number of seats earmarked for various communities, including the SCs sand STs, should not exceed 50 per cent of its total strength.

This BJP, which has been targeting the MVA over its “failure” to handle the quota issue, is likely to step up its attack during the winter session.

The Shakti Bill, which has been drafted on the lines of the Disha Act, is also expected to come up for discussion this time.