With the Mumbai civic polls just a month away, the main political parties vying for your votes agree on one point - the constantly increasing population of the city has made the job of providing even basic amenities to Mumbaiites difficult. Predictably, however, they disagree on ways in which the problem can be fixed.
The near full house present on Saturday at the Hindustan Times Mumbai First conclave, 'Agenda for Mumbai', witnessed some of the city's top politicians sparring with each other even as they fielded questions from citizens.
The objective of the conclave, held at YB Chavan Centre auditorium, was to initiate an interaction between disgruntled citizens and politicians, and to provide the city's major political parties a platform to spell out their agenda for Mumbai.
The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance, which is expected to throw a strong challenge to the ruling BJP-Sena alliance, said that the key to a better Mumbai was ushering in uniformity by ensuring that the same political alliance is in power at the Centre, state and city.
"The Centre has pushed funds into Mumbai for many big projects like BRIMSTOWAD. Efforts have been made to improve transport, and overall infrastructure, by the state. But, I think we would have seen better utilisation of funds, and more co-ordination, if our party also ruled the city," said Sanjay Nirupam, Congress MP. The Brihanmumbai Stormwater Disposal System (BRIMSTOWAD) is a project planned to overhaul Mumbai's water drainage system.
However, BJP's senior leader Vinod Tawde, who represented the saffron combine at the conclave, refuted this theory, and made a case for a more empowered Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), with greater financial and administrative powers. Giving an example, Tawde said: Tawde also supported the demand made by citizens for a single authority that would be accountable for the city.
The conclave was moderated by B Venkatesh Kumar, professor of political science at Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
Shirish Parkar, from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, slammed both ruling parties at the city and state level for failing on basic parameters and pointed a finger at the "outsiders".
When asked to spell out his party's stance, he said his party was not against newcomers, but against people who were living illegitimately. "Why are we so sympathetic about slumdwellers? What do 40 per cent of tax payers feel about constantly legalising slums?" he asked.
Citizens' groups flagged several important issues before the panel, including encroachments, hawker policy, open spaces, development plan, illegal banners, and traffic issues like parking.
While citizen activist from Malabar Hill, Indrani Malkani, wanted to know whether political parties have any take in their manifestos on the development plan, which accounts for land use of the city, Citispace member Vidya Vaidya wanted to know what the political parties plan to do on the issue of open spaces, that has been on the backburner since 2007.
The Congress and the BJP promised to include the open spaces issue in their election manifesto. NCP's Prakash Binsale appealed to the citizens to send in their suggestions for the Congress-NCP alliance's manifesto. "If we get good suggestions from the citizens, we will incorporate them," he said.