With its manifesto, the Bharatiya Janata Party has tried to give Mumbai a new start. Making up for its 15-year-rule in the country’s richest civic body as a junior partner to the Shiv Sena, the BJP manifesto now promises to make amends and chart a new path for the city and the running of the civic corporation.
The party’s intentions are good, given that for the first time a party has said it will be accountable to a civic polls manifesto. But, how seriously can we take these promises, especially that of transparency ?
The BJP has promised a slew of reforms and action plans to ensure transparency in the administration, from announcing a probe into all Public-Private-Partnership projects undertaken in the last 20 years through the civic body, to reviewing existing tender processes and stopping arbitrary cost escalation proposals. These promises are likely to be undone, if the civic polls throw up an unclear verdict. If the Sena and BJP are forced into a post poll alliance, the transparency promises will be the first to go out the window, given they target the Sena.
“Even if the BJP can implement 50% of what has been promised, it will be great. Going by the 2014 poll promises, it looks unlikely. But, one sees hope in promises such as making asset declaration mandatory for all from contractors to officials and elected councillors,’’ said activist Anjali Damania.
CM Devendra Fadnavis has said the transparency and other promises made in the manifesto will not be compromised on.
“This is an agreement with Mumbaiites, showing our commitment for development and an assurance for 100% transparent governance in BMC,” the chief minister said.
But, in case of political uncertainty, can he keep this promise?
Too many ambitious promises
The manifesto promises five new government colleges, three hospitals, a refurbished zoo, 24x7 water supply, a flood-free Mumbai, no mobile towers in public parks... the BJP seems to have stretched itself too thin with its election manifesto to appease all.
And, many of its promises ring hollow. For instance, the BJP has said it will amend the BMC Act to make maintenance of such open spaces mandatory, not just a discretionary duty. While an amendment to this effect was moved by the BJP in the state legislature, in the past year, the party’s stance over open spaces has been anything but consistent in the BMC.
Similarly, the party has said it will ensure 29.59% of the city’s natural areas, including its salt pan lands, water bodies and forest areas, are reserved as eco-sensitive zones where no construction will be allowed. But, at the same time, the BJP-led state government is keen on opening up salt pan lands for affordable housing.