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2009: An eventful year for Maharashtra

 

Saturday, December 26, 2009 10:29:46 PM, IANS

2009: A year of Congress triumph and MNS rise: It was a 'double triumph' for Congress in Maharashtra in 2009 as it not only decimated the BJP-Shiv Sena combine in the Lok Sabha elections, but also won a third term in the state with its ally Nationalist  .... Read Full

Mumbai: 2009 was a year of upheavals, controversies, rising and falling stars and fortunes, disasters and drama for Maharashtra.

 

The year started on a sombre note as the effects of the Nov 26 terror attacks were yet to fully sink in the minds of the people and the government.

 

Barely three weeks before the New Year (Jan 1, 2009), Ashok Chavan had replaced Vilasrao Deshmukh as state chief minister in the political fallout of the terror attacks which left 166 dead.

 

Barely had the state grappled with the change of guard at the helm, the Lok Sabha elections were announced.

 

Contrary to all speculation and wishful thinking by the opposition, the ruling Democratic Front (DF) helped the Congress stage an impressive comeback to power at the centre.

 

Around the same time, the lone Pakistani terrorist - Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab - arrested as the prime accused in the 26/11 carnage, was put on trial amidst demands from many quarters that he should be summarily hanged.

 

The first phase of the trial - after eight months - is on the verge of completion now, but not before its share of controversies.

 

The first hiccup started when the state-appointed lawyer, Anjali Waghmare, was removed even before the trial started, on grounds of professional misconduct.

 

Eminent criminal lawyer S.G. Abbas Kazmi replaced her and he started in right earnest - with a bombshell that his client Kasab is a minor, keeping the seasoned Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam on his toes always.

 

There were many more dramatic moments during the course of the most keenly watched trial in recent history - Kasab crying in court, making demands ranging from soaps to perfumes, offering a confession of his role in the 26/11 attacks, etc.

 

The final drama came early December - at the fag end of the first phase of the trial - when Special Judge M. L. Tahilyani sacked Kazmi for improper conduct before the Special Court, and handed over the reigns to his assistant. K.P. Pawar.

 

Kasab has in a u-turn retracted his earlier confession to the court and maintains he is not a terrorist and is being falsely implicated by the police in the attacks.

 

On March 13, state Director-General of Police A. N. Roy, whose appointment was marked with controversies, was removed following a Bombay High Court order.

 

He was replaced by S.S. Virk, (who retired Oct 31), but Roy was appointed as DGP for the state assembly elections during September-October this year.

 

Ironically, Roy, who first took charge on March 1, 2008, is now once again the acting DGP and the front-runner for the post.

 

The fall-out continued even longer when the state government abruptly removed Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor and appointed D. Shivanandhan in his place.

 

Around that time, on June 30, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurated the country's first bridge in the sea - the Rajiv Gandhi Bandra Worli Sea Link, a new landmark for the city.

 

Even as the Lok Sabha election victory was sinking in, the ugly head of the H1N1 swine-flu virus hit Maharashtra with full force - claiming the first victim, a 14-year old girl student in Pune, Rida Shaikh, on Aug 3. In the past five months, the state has notched nearly 225 deaths due to swine flu - and the figure keeps rising each week - even as the news plumetted from the front page headlines to briefs.

 

After all, there were more urgent issues - like the crucial Maharashtra assembly elections of Oct 13. Again belying all hopes, the ruling DF combine of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party was swept to power in a hat-trick performance.

 

The opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party was inflicted deeper wounds, ironically by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), technically a part of the opposition.

 

After injuring the chances of the saffron alliance in the Lok Sabha elections, the MNS dug deeper by bagging 13 seats in the assembly elections.

 

It emerged as the fifth force in state politics - and is aiming higher. It raised issues - aggressively and often violently, bringing instant publicity, much to the discomfiture of the Sena.

 

There were other problems for the Sena. Party chief Bal Thackeray's high-profile daughter-in-law Smita announced this month that she would join the Congress, even as the party reeled under another loss - the post of Leader of Opposition to its ally, the BJP.

 

As the year drew to a close, the opposition compelled the government to finally table the Ram Pradhan-V. Balachandran Commission Report on the 26/11 terror attacks before the assembly.

 

It is widely believed that there may not be many surprises since parts of the report have allegedly leaked in the media.

 

Large parts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai, received deficient rains. One person lost his life when he joined a water war in Mumbai last month.

 

Hopes were raised mid-November when storm clouds gathered over western Maharashtra, promising rains, but it was the Cyclone Phyan that left a trail of deaths and destruction calculated at nearly Rs.2 billion.

 

Amid the regular terror alerts, unabated farmland suicides and the demand for a separate state of Vidarbha intensifying, life however continues as usual for the 12 crore people of the state.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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