Two months ahead of the crucial BMC polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday sounded the bugle for the civic polls by launching big-ticket infrastructure projects for the city valued at Rs1.06 lakh crore. He also underscored that development would be the party’s central campaign plank.
At a grand function at BKC, Modi said, “I have just inaugurated development projects worth Rs 1.06 lakh crore with the push of a few buttons in one day, in Mumbai. This has not happened before, but we have made it possible,’’ said Modi. With the launch of these projects, the government aims to show it can bring change to the lives of ordinary Mumbaiites.
The BJP is hoping to gain decisive control of the country’s richest civic body, which for the past two decades has been the citadel of its ally-turned-rival Shiv Sena.
Among the projects he laid the foundation stone to include the pending Mumbai Trans-harbour Link, the 22-km sea bridge, the longest in the country that will link the island city to the mainland. Besides this, the PM laid the foundation stone for two Metro corridors and the ambitious Mumbai Urban Transport Project III, which will upgrade and add to suburban railway services, including bringing in 500 new rakes.
“Development is the only solution to our problems — to create employment for the youth, to give poor their rights, to fulfil aspirations of the middle class and to live a life of dignity. Since you have given us the mandate, we have only made development as our central focus and priority,’’ Modi said. In a jibe, he also said the past 70 years have shown that development should have been adopted as the sole agenda for the country much earlier.
Sources in BJP told HT that Mumbai’s vision blueprint including some of these showcase projects would be the cornerstone of the party’s campaign.
The party is also looking to broad base its traditional vote bank from middle class to the urban poor. Unless, the BJP makes a dent in the votes of the urban poor, a clear win is unlikely for the party. The PM said his government was looking at development, which was sustainable and empowered the poor.
“All our policies and schemes are focused on the poor,’’ he said.
Modi spoke of his government’s schemes to increase the pension of senior citizens, providing cheaper generic medicines, providing gas connections to the poor, at a cost to the public exchequer to transform the country. These central schemes that have benefitted poor will also form the backbone of the BJP’s BMC camapaign to win over urban poor and slum dwellers, considered to be traditional Congress vote bank. “For the past 70 years, 18,000 villages have been forced to live in the 18th century without any access to power. Can people forget those who have wasted 70 years?’’ Modi said.