From Anil Nair in Mumbai
Maharashtra Governor S.M. Krishna'sdecision to return the ordinance on banning dance bars in the state has put paid to all the political calculations of the Congress-NCP combine. Even though the Chief Minister belonging to the Congress Vilasrao Deshmukh puts up a brave front saying that the decision to ban the dance bars was taken unanimously by the cabinet and there is no going back, there is a strong lobby in the state Congress party itself, which is against the move. It was quite a spectacle to see the state Congress chief Prabha Rau telling newspersons that the Congress party was not even consulted by the NCP while making the ordinance.
Even more embarrassing was the statement of the Governor that he was not seeking any clarifications as suggested by the state Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil. He made it plain and clear that he was returning the ordinance because he thought it was not urgent and it could go through the regular process of legislation by the Assembly. But what is the most intriguing is the rift between the two coalition partners in ruling the state. There seems to be two parallel governments running the state, two separate entities which do not seem to be in consonance with each other.
Earlier, when the issue of the demolition drive took place, there were many in the coalition who were vocal about their dissent. It was embarrassing for the Chief Minister to tackle questions from the press on the issue of divergent views or rather tangentially opposite views from his coalition. The Governor had taken over 11 days to decide upon the fate of the ordinance for banning dance bars. ?I am a student of constitutional law, and there is nothing here for me to seek a clarification. I have simply returned the bill, which, in my wisdom, I find there is nothing urgent to sign?, the Governor told a newspaper in Mumbai. Now for Deputy Chief Minister, who belongs to NCP, it will be difficult to budge on the ban after having raised the stakes so high.
The rift between the Congress and the NCP was most evident when the turn-Mumbai-into-Shanghai plan was mooted by the Chief Minister. There was utter confusion over the modalities of the plan, and after the Chinese visit, the NCP Deputy Chief Minister Patil told correspondents: ?We don'tneed to make Mumbai into Shanghai. Mumbai will remain Mumbai.? That was a loaded answer; was he saying that the pre-1995/2000 slums will not be demolished anymore or that status quo will be maintained? Whatever the insinuation, the government'simage had taken a beating.
Most political observers in the state say that the government unnecessarily raises the issues to a hype and then faces the ignominy of back-tracking. ?It is very necessary to keep options open so that there is always a way out. The hardened posturing over dance bars, even though it is a popular move, will end with a lot of egg in the face?, explained a Congress worker at the party office in Nariman Point.