BMC polls: After big promises for votes, can political parties get back to basics, please? | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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BMC polls: After big promises for votes, can political parties get back to basics, please?

Traffic congestion, cleanliness and crumbling infrastructure, the issues which make life difficult for every Mumbaiite find no mention in any party’s manifesto or agenda.

mumbai Updated: Jan 24, 2017 12:30 IST
Faisal Malik
In his poll manifesto, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has announced revamp of open spaces, solutions to pothole problem and 24x7 water supply for voters.
In his poll manifesto, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has announced revamp of open spaces, solutions to pothole problem and 24x7 water supply for voters. (HT)

With elections for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) around the corner, political parties are making all kinds of big promises -- free WiFi, 24-hour water supply, property tax waiver for small-size flats and many more -- to woo voters. Should citizens be happy with all these offers? Not really. Reason: traffic congestion, cleanliness, encroachments and crumbling infrastructure, the issues which make life difficult for every Mumbaiite, find no mention in any party’s manifesto or agenda.

The BMC, the richest civic body in the country with an annual budget of around Rs37,000 crore, is going to polls on February 21. For the past 22 years, it has been dominated by the Shiv Sena, with the BJP as its junior partner. However, this time, the Sena is facing tough competition from its oldest partner, as well as the Congress.

In a bid to woo voters in this three-cornered contest, parties have come up with several freebies, which most feel are not new. For instance, the Sena has declared it would exempt houses up to 500 sqft from property tax and give concession to houses up to 700 sqft. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has announced revamp of open spaces, solutions to pothole problem and 24x7 water supply for voters.

Its ally BJP too is not far behind. The party is preparing a list of promises that will be published soon. The BJP-led state government is also spending Rs120 crore of taxpayers’ money every year to provide over 500 free WiFi hotspots in Mumbai.

The third contender, Congress, too, has promised free water, reduction in property tax, 90 litres of water for every person daily, pothole-free roads and a waste-free city, among others.

The NCP, meanwhile, is ready with plans such as a medical insurance scheme for just Rs101, reduction in fares of BEST buses, free drinking water, 24x7 water supply and empowering BMC schools to impart education up to Class 10.

After all this too, there are no solutions on offer for Mumbaiites. The commute in the city is nightmarish, but the BMC, which is responsible for most roads and related infrastructure, has not implemented any major plan to make it better.

That’s not all. No efforts are being taken to make Mumbai, which most politicians refer to as an international city, clean. The encroachments and illegal hawkers/peddlers have taken over all public spaces -- roads, footpaths, open spaces -- but none of the parties plan to offer any respite.

Mumbai needs a vision for development and not just promises, said Milind Mhaske, project director of non-government organisation Praja, which keeps a tab on the performance of elected representatives. “If political parties link their plans to the actual budget of the corporation, promises will certainly become feasible to implement. Unless they start this practice, things will remain unchanged,” Mhaske told HT. Praja is also contemplating to track poll promises of the parties on annual basis from this elections.

Read more: Mumbai civic polls: Freebies by political parties will cost you Rs1,000 crore annually

Battle for BMC turns into a freebie war