Apnon ne diye gham to mujhe yaad aa gaya, ek ajnabi jo ghair tha aur ghamgusar tha (Pain inflicted by my own made me appreciate the stranger who alleviated my woes).
The Shivraj Singh Chouhan regime’s stinginess in doling out funds must make the BJP-led Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) yearn for the halcyon days of the Congress Government. Back then, a single visit to Bhopal was usually sufficient for government aid to come through, thanks to the cosy rapport shared by Diggy Raja and former Mayor Kailash Vijayvargiya.
All that, however, changed since the BJP rode to power in the State. Much to the Corporation’s chagrin, government cash flow to the State’s commercial capital has gone down rather than up despite the installation of a sympathetic regime.
In fact, Mayor Uma Shashi Sharma seems to have a much harder time wrangling funds from her own partymen than her predecessor did from the rival Congress, particularly since Chouhan took over.
“The reluctance to provide funding could have been attributed to political compulsions. But as the Chief Minister is said to be unhappy with (PWD Minister Kailash) Vijayvargiya there is all the more reason why he shouldn’t deny money to the Corporation (headed by Sharma who belongs to the rival faction led by MP Sumitra Mahajan),” pointed out a local BJP leader.
Not only does the present dispensation seem disinclined to make fresh allocations, it has gone further by threatening to cut off existing allocations like the monthly octroi compensation payments, roughly Rs 3 crore, to repay the Corporation’s electricity bills.
Even when the government does dip into its pockets the cash doesn’t make it to the IMC, but is diverted en route. As happened with the Rs 2.5 crore road repair grant promised to the Corporation that was funnelled to the MPSEB to cover bills run up by the Narmada water supply project.
The upshot is that the Mayor has to keep travelling to Bhopal either to try and prise open the government’s tightly clenched fists or to persuade it not to pare existing funds.
During the last fortnight alone the Mayor has made two trips to Bhopal, once to plead for the maintenance of a status quo on octroi payments and then to petition Chouhan for a waiver of the surcharge levied on electricity bills.
On Monday, she was again in Bhopal, this time to persuade the Chief Minister not to siphon patchwork funds to the power utility given the importance of carrying out road repairs in the run up to Diwali.
All this shuttling between Indore and Bhopal naturally hinders the Mayor’s primary job - ensuring effective civic governance. This gives her critics cause to complain which, in turn, provides the government with more reason to rethink funding to the City, completing a cycle as vicious as it appears to be unending.