While the fate of the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance for the Mumbai civic polls hangs in the balance, the Sena on Monday went ahead and released its manifesto — full of glossy promises, over a fifth of which are a repetition of its 2012 manifesto.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray maintained talks with the BJP for an alliance were still underway, but the Sena released its manifesto on Monday as it is an important day for the party, marking the birth anniversary of his father and party founder, the late Bal Thackeray.
“It is very important for us to reinforce our commitment to the people on this day, so we released our manifesto. If the alliance takes shape and they [the BJP] have good suggestions, we will incorporate them in the manifesto,” said Thackeray, who has been indicating his party was prepared to fight on its own. In the last election, the Sena and BJP contested with a pre-poll alliance and released a common manifesto.
At least 12 of the 55 points in the Sena’s manifesto are a repetition of its 2012 assurances. These include installing pumping stations at Mogra nullah and Mahul creek to prevent water logging during the monsoon, scientific treatment of waste at the Deonar dumping ground, concretising roads, among others.
“There are some things in the manifesto that people may feel are a repetition. For example, the Gargai and Pinjal dams or scientific treatment of waste at Deonar. It is not like we forgot about these works, but it takes a long time to get permissions from the state and central governments,” Thackeray said.
While the Sena promised to complete the Gargai and Pinjal dams, a major step towards round-the-clock water supply for Mumbai by 2017, the Pinjal project us still on paper. The civic body is drawing up a blueprint for Gargai. The civic body’s attempts at waste-to-energy conversion at the Deonar dumping ground has failed to attract bidders.
The manifesto also mentions reserving Aarey colony as a green zone — a bone of contention, as the BJP-led state government has set aside a section there to build a Metro carshed. The Sena also wants vacant land on the eastern sea-front, under the Union government’s Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), to be handed over to BMC to create a tourist zone. This, despite the BJP-led Union government already picking a design consultant for MbPT itself to open up this area to the public, while incorporating residential and commercial construction that the Sena is against. The Sena’s manifesto is, however, silent on its pet projects of creating a theme park at Mahalaxmi race course and enhancing Mumbai’s nightlife, two points the Sena and BJP have constantly squabbled over. Thackeray, however, said the party is still insistent on both points.
The Sena’s manifesto promises markets for farmers from across Maharashtra to sell produce directly to citizens - a proposal the BJP government has been advocating.
The manifesto also lists a range of freebies – property tax exemption for houses up to 500 sqft, regularising construction in the Coastal Regulation Zone in gaothans and koliwadas, and a dabbawala bhavan for the community.
“There is no point in the manifesto that we haven’t studied thoroughly. We are not making promises that fall under the purview of the Union or state. These are all works the civic body will do,” Thackeray said.
The opposition, slammed the manifesto and Thackeray’s statement that those who oppose the Sena were ‘Mumbai drohis,’ calling the party dictatorial. State opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil from the Congress said, “If those who speak out against the Sena’s manifesto are ‘Mumbai drohis,’ what kind of a drohi is Thackeray for not completing the 2012 promises?”
Also read: Shiv Sena, BJP begin BMC alliance talks