For chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Mumbai’s makeover tops his list of things to do. In an interview with HT, he said his government will remove bottlenecks in policy-making and in the implementation of projects.
In what may bring relief to home buyers, Fadnavis indicated housing prices could be brought down. Further, his office will function on the lines of the Prime Minister’s Office, and he plans to “unlock all closets” of corruption of the previous Congress-NCP regime. Excerpts from the interview.
Despite so many experiments and plans, not much has changed in a metropolis like Mumbai. Cities in other states have developed tremendously over the years. How will you correct this?
Having been in the opposition for 15 years, I have had the opportunity to study the issues in Mumbai and have pointed out irregularities and corruption in projects during prolonged debates in the Assembly. People still remember what a BJP minister did for the city between 1995 and 1999, and my priority, too, will be to get maximum problems resolved in the fast mode.
The BJP government at the Centre has already taken up Mumbai’s issues seriously, and PM Narendrabhai Modi and Nitin Gadkari are keen on giving Mumbai its due. In fact, Mr Gadkari started to develop the city 15 years ago when he built 55 flyovers, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and the Bandra-Worli sea link at minimum cost. We started work on the sea link, but the Congress-NCP government completed it — well beyond schedule, and inflated its construction costs manifold.
Henceforth, I will ensure perfect planning and quicker implementation, by putting in place a proper mechanism in my office, maybe a dedicated officer of a senior rank.
People decry wastage of money by the state and civic body because change isn’t visible.
My thrust will be on quality investment. I will ensure the money is not used for any individual’s benefit. Here, transparency will come into play. I will not hesitate to raise loans for projects in Mumbai and elsewhere, because it will get us better results.Many complaints are related to the civic body, in which the BJP is a ruling partner. Earlier, the Congress-NCP had an agenda to earn credit, and not give the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) any.
Both the state and the Centre will definitely help the BMC. There will be support from the Centre’s urban renewal scheme, and we will get major funds from them to complete the delayed projects.
At the same time, the state, through agencies like the MMRDA, will try to get better infrastructure for the city. The difference this time will be the unity among all agencies. Dirty politics will not hamper Mumbai’s growth.
The Navi Mumbai airport, trans-harbour link, extended sea link, water transport, coastal road, stormwater/drainage systems, roads/flyovers, railways… Mumbai’s list of delayed projects is exhaustive.
My party’s government at the Centre has already started work on many of these.
Bottlenecks in the Navi Mumbai airport were removed immediately after we came to power in New Delhi. I will have more updates on this in a day or two. We will explore the possibility of building the trans-harbour link and the coastal road in association with the Centre. Mr Gadkari has given indications he is ready to help such projects.
The BMC will get help from us and the Centre to complete stormwater/drainage systems. The state will build roads and viaducts wherever possible.
With a fast-track system in place at the Centre, we will have no difficulty in getting clearances. The railways too are more cooperative than before.
Need for affordable housing continues to trouble even better-off people. Slums are mushrooming.
We have promised affordable housing for all and the eradication of slums.
My government is yet to take stock of the housing scenario. But, I can assure you some relief in costs, in urban areas such as Mumbai and a few other cities. I have noticed an increase in registration, stamp duty and other levies by at least 20%. We may offer some rebate on such duties. We will continue to work for affordable housing with agencies like Mhada and Cidco. People pay heavy toll at entry points to the city so flyovers are maintained well, but the structures are seldom in good condition. Residents of Thane cannot leave city limits without paying toll. Navi Mumbai has its own issues about this levy.
There is an alternative to toll tax and we are working on it. Some people say road users should pay toll tax, but demand transparency in the system. I’m for transparency and the money earned should not go to individuals and companies.
You promised to scrap octroi/ local body tax after coming to power. Traders in Mumbai don’t even want LBT, which would replace octroi. Is the plan on?
It is very much on. I had submitted a model to Prithviraj Chavan (ex-CM), in which the turnover tax on value-added tax would replace LBT. He didn’t take it seriously. Now, I will talk to traders’ associations before finalising anything.
A day after assuming charge of one of the most important states in the country, will you share your work strategy with us?
I have decided to follow the model of PM Narendrabhai Modi. I’m told Modiji listens to his ministers before taking any decision, and if a minister is not able to execute approved plans, he ensures experts help him. The CMO will be a replica of the PMO. State matters are trickier than those at the Centre, and people here need approvals at several stages. For this, they travel all the way to the Mantralaya.
I will stop troubling people further and decentralise power. E-governance is in place, but it needs to improved. I want to reduce unnecessary interventions at the administrative level. The CM’s office will work in Nagpur, and people from Vidarbha can visit it instead of travelling to Mumbai.
You had said in your campaign that Congress-NCP leaders, who were accused of corruption, would not be spared.
We are on the right track in this matter. I have decided to unlock all ‘closets’, in which their wrongdoings are secured. There many reports and findings that have indicted leaders from the previous governments. I now have full access to them.
Does this mean the Shiv Sena will join you soon?
We are very positive about the Sena. Our senior leaders are talking with the Sena leaders. I believe we may not need the NCP to support us.