In a move that might set several cats among the pigeons, a group of professionals, including doctors, advocates and teachers, have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking the Union government to consider moving the national capital out of New Delhi, to Mumbai – or at least declare the city as the second capital of India.
‘Mumbai for India’s capital,’ is the campaign plank of advocate Sujit Shripad Chavan, who is contesting elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Council, due next month, as an independent candidate. He is the vice–president of the Mahamumbai Padvidhar Sabha (MPS), the forum promoting the move to shift India’s capital from New Delhi to Maharashtra’s own.
The campaign will be formally launched on Wednesday and, according to Chavan, the MPS has given considerable thought to the proposal after conversations with numerous graduates, professionals and youth, most of whom have welcomed it.
In its letter to the PM, the MPS has described Delhi as ‘stagnant, non-inspirational and showing signs of rigid orthodoxy’ after serving as India’s capital for over a century. Mumbai, on the other hand, ‘is inspirational, vibrant, prosperous and a modern city with a cosmopolitan, intellectual and philanthropic outlook’, the MPS has said.
Quoting Dr BR Ambedkar from his 1955 book, ‘Thoughts on Linguistic States’, wherein he advocated a second capital, much like the Moghuls and the British had throughout their reign (Agra and Srinagar, then Delhi and Srinagar for the Moghuls; Calcutta and Simla, later Delhi and Simla for the British), the MPS has pointed out that the father of the Indian Constitution had even then picked three cities — Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad for their vibrancy, but favoured Mumbai as the ‘Emporium of India’.
Extend Mumbai limits
The MPS suggests that ‘Mahamumbai’ be extended to Navi Mumbai, Thane and the edges of Raigad, much in accordance with the state government’s own expansion plans under the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority, and that these areas be declared the National Capital Region.
MPS president Dr Tushar Jagtap told Hindustan Times that nearly 48% of the land in Mumbai is under the no-development zone, and that it is quite feasible for the government to develop this dormant real estate to build a parliament house and other infrastructure needed for a second capital.
“This is due to India’s financial capital, and is also advisable from the security point of view — if one capital is under threat, we will always have another one in which to seek refuge,” he said.
Sena amenable, but Congress cold
Shiv Sena spokesperson Rahul Narvekar has welcomed the move, so long as there is no attempt to turn Mumbai into a city-state. “If Mumbai is made India’s second capital it will be a great boost to Mumbaikars, but if there is any attempt to make it independent of Maharashtra, it will be not only unfair to the rest of the state, but will be an insult to the memories of the 105 people who gave their lives fighting for an independent state in the 1950s,” he said.
The Congress, however, is rather cold to the idea. Former Mumbai Congress president Kripashankar Singh said, “The thought is attractive but if at all a second capital is needed, why not Nagpur, where the zero mile begins?” Nagpur is equidistant from across the country and would bring people closer to the capital, than placing it at one extreme, he said. “Mumbai will continue to be the financial capital and, even without being the second capital, it is not likely to decline in significance,” he added.
The PM has acknowledged the June 19 letter, but has ventured forth no opinion.