There was a mixed response from political parties to Ports Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil’s suggestion that the port move out of the city and its land be used for development.
“It’s time for the port to be thrown open for development. It can solve a lot of Mumbai’s problems. The land can be used for real estate, waterfronts, tourism and a marina,” said Vikhe-Patil.
Agreeing, Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Vinod Tawde said, “The shifting of the port is long overdue. It will help decongest Mumbai.”
Shiv Sena spokesperson and legislator Neelam Gorhe said that though development is a major issue, it needs to be done in a planned manner. “It should not happen that such decisions are taken suddenly and we are not part of the decision-making process. A committee comprising experts and representatives of all political parties should be formed to look into it,” she said.
Congress MP Milind Deora said there should be better coordination between the state and Union governments over the issue. “On the face of it, the minister’s suggestion seems a good long-term solution. It will not only mean freeing up land, but MbPT and the state can pool resources to work on common business interests,” he said.
But the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which is part of the ruling alliance, opposed the suggestion. In September 2007, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had opposed the plan to stall the port’s expansion, locking horns with then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.
“We will stick to that stand because the port deals with major commodities for the state. Also, the port came first, the city’s development followed. We cannot forget this,” said NCP legislator Prakash Binsale.
Tawde said there was no question of Mumbai’s identity being affected. “Mumbai was also known as a city of mills, but even that changed. We have to move with the times,” he said.