The Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation’s (BMC) mayor may be from the Shiv Sena, but it is the second largest party in the BMC — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — which has managed to get its poll promises to the civic budget.
According to analysts, while the budget for 2017-2018 is heavily influenced by the BJP’s transparency agenda, Sena’s projects have been laid by the wayside. The budget also seems to have taken a cue from the Centre’s promise of a cashless economy by initiating cashless transactions across all its services. The Opposition have called it a BJP-sponsored budget. This year, the BMC has come up with more administrative reforms rather than announcing new projects.
A shot in the arm for the BJP’s transparency agenda can be seen in the civic body laying down a standard bidding document for a transparent tendering procedures, analysts said. This move, sources say, aims to break the nexus between officials and contractors that are formed through the tender committees. This practice has been abolished now with power delegated to the head of every department, instead of a committee.
Meanwhile, the Sena’s most important poll promise — tax exemption for owners of property of less than 500 square feet along with free healthcare services to all Mumbaiites who do not qualify for any of the state government’s health sops, with its own ‘Balasaheb Thackeray Aarogya Kavach’ scheme, has not been mentioned in the budget
The BMC has changed the rules and regulations for registration of contractors, so as to have better control over various municipal works. The civic body has reduced tender fees to help increase participation from contractors .
After the Centre’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, ease of doing business initiatives got prominence last time, now it is the ‘digital and cashless’ India initiative, which has been given importance in this budget. Even the BJP’s manifesto promise of cleaning all beaches, placing LED lights has found a mention in the document.
The BMC has proposed setting up digital schools, a system where birth and death records can be accessed online, and also building construction permissions to be taken online among many other digital initiatives.
Manoj Kotak, group leader of BJP, said, “People have voted for transparency. The chief minister’s appeal for transparency has been brought into effect and it can be seen as the Rs11,000 crore inflated figure has now been brought down and the truth has come out.”
The BJP leaders also said they would work towards waiving off street tax and exemption from property tax for owners having properties of area less than 600 square feet.
According to the Sena, many of their manifesto promises have been taken care of . The projects such as development of gardens and theme parks, coastal road, Deonar dumping ground, sewerage treatment plants have all found a mention. However, the pet project of Uddhav Thackeray – a bird park — has hardly got any allocation.
Ramesh Korgaonkar, a standing committee chairman and Sena corporator, said “Let them (BJP) talk about transparency, but the truth is we are the ones who are actually pushing with the administration to bring in reforms. We are happy with the civic chief’s decision on slashing the budget as it has been made more realistic now and it is achievable. However, we are in power in the BMC and we will approve the budget after considering various amendments to the proposed budget by incorporating several plans that are not included currently.”
Rais Shaikh, group leader of Samajwadi Party, said, “This was a BJP-sponsored budget.”
Also, not just by reducing the size of departmental works, the civic body is also looking to cut down on hiring.