Coalition partners behave like owners: Maha CM

Mumbai: In an apparent jibe at coalition partner NCP, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has said that some coalition constituents in Delhi and in the state behave as if they "own" their departments.

"In Delhi, I have experienced coalition governments at close quarters, while in the PMO. I am aware of the difficulties. There is a basic difference between the government in Delhi and the one in Maharashtra. There, one party – Congress – is the dominant partner, while here, both the parties are almost equally stacked," he said.

"I have seen that personalities are important, while working in a coalition. In Delhi, some in the coalition behave as if they are owners of the departments. Here also, the situation is somewhat similar," Chavan said without naming Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar of NCP.

However, asked to name a couple of NCP leaders with whom he gets along very well, Chavan, tried to amend things, saying, "I get along very well with all of them. Many a time, there are difficulties in coordination. However, this is expected in a coalition government," Chavan, who was sworn in as CM on November 11 last year, said during a media interaction here.

However, this is not the first time Chavan has made public the unease in working with the coalition partner. In July, he had said that Congress, agreeing to give the key Home portfolio to NCP, was a "mistake". "I think it was a mistake. We should have re-looked at it. I don`t know of any other coalition government, where the portfolios of Home, Finance and Planning are not with the Chief Minister," he had said.

On the development front, the Chief Minister said that 40 mega projects would be put on fast-track to boost investment and spur industrial growth in the state. "My government has already signed MoU on five projects, each worth over Rs 500 crore. The remaining 32 projects will be fast-tracked in the coming months," Chavan said, adding "politics of development" will be integral to his administration and corrective measures to enhance transparency and reforms would be emphasised.

"We tried hard to get Maruti Suzuki to set up its project in Maharashtra. But Maruti opted for Gujarat as it had made huge investments in the ports there. Maharashtra needs to expedite the development of ports which has been delayed," Chavan said.

Problems associated with land acquisition have been stalling many projects, and it was imperative to remove these hurdles, the chief minister said.

In the Mihan – Multi-modal International Cargo Hub and Airport at Nagpur – project, Chavan said, he has taken initiative to resolve the land acquisition crisis. "After acquisition of 4,000 hectares of land, the project found itself stuck in the pipeline for 150 hectares. I have taken some corrective steps to find a solution," he said.

On the Jaitapur nuclear project in coastal Konkan, the chief minister said land acquisition was not the hurdle, but local protests came in the way. "We will be paying higher monetary compensation and the same would be announced soon," he said.

Chavan said he was "not happy" about the decision to file a criminal complaint against Lavasa Corporation, but did so following a court directive, adding that he had requested the Centre to grant environmental clearance to the project only after fulfillment of all conditions prescribed by it.

The chief minister admitted that adequate attention was not paid to environmental clearance, while approving certain projects in the past. Expressing confidence that Maharashtra`s leading status in industrial growth will not be compromised as the administration is making renewed efforts to attract investments in the state; Chavan said Maharashtra still remains the most-favoured investment destination in the country.

In the backdrop of 57 per cent of state`s population depending on agriculture for a living, the thrust of the policy will be to consolidate industrial growth uniformly in districts across Maharashtra, he said. "Only four, out of the total 35 districts, attract maximum investment, thus leading to imbalance in growth. The new industrial policy will attempt to create infrastructure to ensure industrial growth in other districts."

Maharashtra remains a leader in investment and industrialization, Chavan, who recently received the "Most improved big state and most improved macro-economy in 2010-11" award, instituted by a leading news-magazine, said.

Admitting that acquisition of land was a challenge for projects like the proposed Navi Mumbai international airport and Mihan, Chavan hinted at a new formula for project-affected people (PAP) in the Navi Mumbai project. The option of permitting PAPs a regular share from profits was under consideration, he said.

Dwelling on the steps to bring in fiscal discipline and transparency in administration, Chavan downplayed the criticism meted out on delays in decision-making, claiming that his government concentrated on complicated policy changes, which had been pending.

Chavan had recently hit out at his critics for saying decision-making has become slow after he took over as chief minister last year. "Yes, a businessman cannot walk into the offices of officials and leaders and get their files cleared personally. If you call that speedy decision-making, then that`s a different kind of governance," Chavan had said.