It’s election season and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Maharashtra has been working overtime to clear pending decisions and kick-off projects that have been in the pipeline for years.
The party wants a majority in the civic bodies, including the country’s richest, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Ahead of next month’s elections, it has been taking decisions on several pending proposals — the grandest of them all, the launch of the populist project to build a statue of the Maratha king Shivaji off the Mumbai coast.
It has also offered more sops to developers to make redevelopment profitable, cleared the hawkers’ policy and are ready with a plan for Wi-Fi hotspots in the city, among other decisions.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and his team may be busy showing the people what his government can do, but opposition parties have criticised the move and citizens’ groups are taking it with a pinch of salt— “all parties do the same while in power and criticise when they are the opposition”.
Earlier this week, the state came up with a solution for old tenanted buildings in the suburbs that could not be developed for years owing to restriction of construction limits compared to the island city. The government decided to incentivise the redevelopment and provide ownership to the tenants.
In another decision, it relaxed the mandatory condition of builders handing over housing stock while redeveloping old buildings on Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) layouts. This means the projects become more profitable for developers. The ruling party maintains the decision was to provide relief to more than two lakh families living in such buildings. The decision also entails increasing the size of the flats on offer from 376 sqft to 507 sqft.
It also constituted a long-awaited state housing regulating body by appointing former IAS officer Gautam Chatterji as the first housing regulator. It has decided to give more FSI (floor space index) for big slum rehabilitation (SRA) projects.
The new Hawkers policy was declared keeping in view the north Indian community, and eyeing the youth vote, the government has readied a plan to provide free Wi-Fi at 1,200 hotspots across 500 locations.
Experts said laying the foundation stone of the Shivaji’s memorial by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the bhoomipujan of two Metro lines could have been done before as well. The series of decisions just weeks before the Mumbai polls have led to many questioning their propriety.
Like the previous Congress-NCP government, the Fadnavis led government is also taking several decisions just ahead of the polls, said Milind Mhaske, the project director of non-government organisation Praja, which keeps tabs on performance of elected representatives.
“We, however, also feel the people’s participation in the five-year term of a government needs to be active. For instance, we complain about the ruling parties during elections, but later get busy with our daily lives. This should be balanced on both the sides,” said Mhaske.
Mumbai NCP chief Sachin Ahir said the BJP was doing the same thing it complained about the Congress-NCP government in the past 15 years. “The government had ample time to make these decisions, but it failed to deliver. Now, keeping an eye on the polls, it is hurriedly coming out with all these decisions.”
Responding to the allegations, BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari insisted the difference between the BJP and the Congress-NCP governments was that the latter only made announcements ahead of the polls, while the BJP took actual decisions.
“Let’s assume the decisions are being taken eyeing polls. So what’s the harm if they are in public interest?,” Bhandari said.