As the state government asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to answer allegations of corruption, citizens and activists demanded an independent investigation.
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan said that he had asked the BMC to submit reports on the allegations. Surendra Srivastava, president of the Loksatta Party's state unit, said the move was an eyewash. "If the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) kept mum when proposals for variations were passed in the BMC, they are also party to the crime," he said. He said that asking the BMC to probe its own misconduct was like giving it a backdoor exit from the mess.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, which is in power in the BMC, defended itself.
Mayor Shraddha Jadhav said the allegations were politically motivated and that the government should put its own house in order. "They favor builders without realizing the impact on infrastructure," she alleged.
Her reaction is significant in view of the civic polls that will be held in January-February 2012. The Congress has been vying for power in the BMC for two decades. The Sena-BJP alliance won the last polls because the NCP and the Congress did not fight the polls together.
This time around, the Congress and NCP joined hands to corner the Sena-BJP. In the Assembly, Congress and NCP members demanded a debate on the BMC's functioning.
Jadhav said steps have been taken to improve water supply. She said the state and Centre earn crores from Mumbai through taxes. If they invest even half the amount in the city, many problems would be resolved, she said. Ashish Shelar, BJP group leader in the BMC, said: "The lack of a computerized balance sheet was pointed out by the BJP itself. We also feel that if something is wrong with the flavored milk and mid-day meal schemes, the contractors should be punished."
He denied that there were irregularities in awarding a dumping ground contract.