Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan hopes that this time around, Mumbaiites will throw the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance out of the civic body. Here’s why he believes Mumbaiites should vote for the Congress-NCP combine. Excerpts from the interview:
On the one hand, you blame the saffron alliance for bad governance and poor infrastructure, but on the other hand, the state government has been sitting on the Mumbai makeover projects.
It’s true that the state has delayed some projects, such as the metro. But it’s not easy to build the metro in Mumbai. We faced several difficulties in pushing the project ahead. We have put the trans-harbour link, coastal road, monorail and housing reforms back on track. The new development control rules have brought real estate prices down by 18%. There are our achievements. In the past 17 years, the Sena-BJP combine has manipulated tenders, paid more in cost overruns and approved huge amounts for contractors. Managing the civic body is not easy, and the present set-up in the BMC has many leakages that need to be plugged.
What is your agenda for Mumbai?
We will prioritise three sectors: Transport, housing and drinking water. This will happen only when the BMC and the state coordinate without friction and don’t fight to take credit for what is done. Only the Congress-NCP alliance can provide the kind of political leadership and administration needed to expedite the city’s overall growth. Other things [projects] will also be taken care of. We will soon come out with a common minimum programme [manifesto].
You say the Congress-NCP alliance will help not to divide secular votes. But won’t Congress rebels who contest against the party candidates change the equation? Senior leaders too are not happy with seat distribution.
Rebellion will always be there and it won’t affect any particular party. I feel the rebellion in the Congress is not of the intensity that it is being projected as. It’s true that MPs such as Priya Dutt and Sanjay Nirupam have protested, but then [city Congress chief] Kripashankar Singh has his own version.
Some say the Congress sold tickets for a hefty price.
For buying tickets, one will have to buy all the people involved in the distribution process. In many cases, people who have levelled charges [of corruption] were also involved in the decision-making. So this charge doesn’t stand. The Youth Congress, which protested [against unfair seat distribution] has congratulated me for giving it 14% [of 169] of the seats.
Why has Congress given tickets to the kin of legislators and corporators?
We have to give it [ticket] to them. The people who demanded seats for their kin are legislators and corporators in their own right. We gave them seats only on their electoral merit and not out of helplessness.