The State Backward Class Commission report on Maratha reservations and the drought in 151 talukas are expected to dominate the two-week long winter session of the Maharashtra Legislature set to begin Monday.
The winter session, being held in Mumbai after 57 years, will have only eight working days and will end on November 30. A decision on whether proceedings of the House would be held on Guru Nanak Jayanti on November 23 will be decided later.
The State Backward Class Commission submitted its 200-page report on Maratha reservations on Thursday and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis stated later in the day that all statutory formalities in connection with it would be completed in 15 days.
Sources, however, said a decision on whether the report will be tabled on the floor of the Legislature is yet to be taken.
In August this year in a televised address during the peak of the Maratha quota protests, Fadnavis had said that once the report of the commission was submitted, a special session of the state legislature would be convened within a month to pass a “law or resolution” regarding granting reservations to the community.
On Thursday in Akola, Fadnavis said his government has already declared it would expedite the Maratha reservation issue by November end.
Nearly half a dozen MLAs had announced their resignations from the Legislature during the peak of the Maratha reservation stir. Only Shiv Sena’s Harshvardhan Jadhav, though, submitted his resignation to Speaker Haribhau Bagade.
Disgruntled BJP MLA Ashish Deshmukh also quit the House.
The prevailing drought in several parts of the state is also expected to be at the centre of acrimonious debates between the government and the Opposition in the Assembly and Legislative Council.
The Opposition has already been in attack mode on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement, made during a rally in Shirdi, that 16,000 villages in the state were now drought-free.
The Opposition has claimed findings of the Groundwater Survey And Development Authority (GSDA), on the other hand, show that groundwater levels have depleted by more than one metre in 13,984 villages in 252 out of the 353 tehsils in the state.
Of the 13,984 villages, groundwater levels have gone down by more than 3 metres in 3,342 villages, by 2-3 metres in 3,430 villages and by 1-2 metres in 7,212 villages, the GSDA report states.
While the state government has been claiming that Jalyukt Shivar, a water conservation scheme, is a success, the opposition Congress and NCP have called it a plan beset by corruption.
Another issue that is expected to generate heat is the killing of tigress Avni. The tigress, who had allegedly killed 13 people in Yavatmal district’s Pandharkawda area in the last two years, was shot dead by a marksman hired by the state government in a forest in Yavatmal on November 2.
The BJP-led government in the state has come under fire over the killing of the tigress who left behind two 10-month-old cubs.
The killing led to an outrage among animal lovers and wildlife organisations which accused the state government of violating norms. The state government set up a four-member committee to probe the killing.
A post mortem report has revealed that the tigress was shot while she was facing away from the shooter and it has also raised doubts on the way the tranquiliser dart was administered.
While Union Minister Maneka Gandhi called the killing a “ghastly murder” and demanded that state Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar be sacked, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has dubbed the probe committee a “farce”.
Mungantiwar and the state government have, however, defended it, calling the incident “sad” but necessary after the tigress had attacked forest staff trying to tranquilise it. The post of Deputy Chairman of the Legislative Council is vacant after the tenure of Congress’ Manikrao Thakare ended.
The BJP is now the single largest party in the Council with 22 seats and it remains to be seen whether it will seek removal of Council Chairman Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar who belongs to the NCP, or if it will settle for the deputy chairman’s post.
Nine new bills, including GST amendments, caste validity for contesting gram panchayat polls, and another amendment regarding cooperative housing societies will be tabled in the winter session.
Apart from these, there are eight pending bills awaiting clearances from either of the two Houses and six ordinances waiting for passage on the floor of both the Houses.