The city will continue to be a contender for the Centre’s smart city project challenge, as the civic body on Tuesday cleared the proposal in the general body meeting.
But, conditions apply.
A belligerent Shiv Sena pushed 14 amendments to the original proposal and gave its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an ultimatum. The BJP accepted all amendments without a fight, to avoid the embarrassment of not sending a proposal for the PM’s flagship scheme.
The political drama unfolded over three hours, as the Sena told its ally if even one amendment is not accepted by the Centre and state, the project should be “considered as scrapped”. Two of these amendments came from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
Among the amendments is an 85% reservation for sons of the soil, for the 60 lakh jobs the project aims to create.
Not allowing private equity to implement the project and the involvement of the mayor as the chairman of the special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the project are other demands. The Sena also wants the mayor to have the right to veto any decision the SPV takes.
“All our amendments have to be accepted by the Centre, without any changes. If not, they can consider it [smart city project] to be scrapped. The Centre is free to choose any other city in Maharashtra. The BMC is well-equipped to develop Mumbai,” said Sunil Prabhu, senior Sena corporator, who was present at the general body meeting — despite the Assembly session at Nagpur. BJP group leader Manoj Kotak said, “We agree with the Sena’s amendments. There should also be a discussion on the formation of the SPV.” The implication of this development is Mumbai’s smart city project may be very different compared to others. If the Sena has its way, the project will have no private investment. All amendments are a bid to ensure the party and corporators retain control.
“We are not against development. But we do not want the project to favour developers and private players through SPV,” Prabhu said. “We have demanded more than 50% representation of municipal councilors in the SPV.” Sena’s attempt to defer the project would have caused the BJP embarrassment, as it wants Mumbai to figure in the PM’s project. The BJP was also fighting a deadline — Tuesday was the last day for BMC to submit its proposal. Fadnavis was keen on sending all 10 selected smart city proposals to the Centre as promised. The proposal was finally passed with both MNS and Sena on board, even as the Congress and the SP continued opposing it.
Senior Sena leaders, however, claim said the smart city project does not introduce anything new for Mumbai that BMC has not already planned. “Be it zero garbage, 24/7 water supply or WiFi, the BMC is in the process of implementing this,” said Yashodhar Phanse, standing committee chairman. “Why is the municipal commissioner looking at Lower Parel to start with? There are several other underdeveloped areas.” Opposition leader in BMC, Devendra Amberkar, asked if Sena was “sleeping” when the same proposal was passed by the standing committee. “When we questioned the motive of shortlisting the already developed Lower Parel for the project, didn’t the Sena realise repercussions?” SP corporator Rais Shaikh questioned Sena’s motives in introducing amendments, instead of scrapping the proposal.
Senior leaders said the CM should not go back on his assurance that powers of local bodies are not taken away.