The Bharatiya Janata Party has promised Mumbaiites that it will upgrade the city’s infrastructure so as to attract the leading service sector companies, but when HT pointed out to BJP general secretary Vinod Tawde that people are unhappy with the quality of basic civic amenities offered by the BJP-Sena alliance, the senior party leader said it was doing the best it could. Excerpts from the interview:
The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has been ruling the BMC for 16 years. What has it done to improve the lives of Mumbaiites?
The BJP-Sena alliance is like Mumbai’s local train service. People take its existence for granted, but the entire city gets paralysed when it shuts down. If we are not in power for just two days, the city will understand what the alliance has been doing for the past 16 years. One good example is water-logging. After the 2005 deluge, the BMC has worked overtime without making a show of it. The result is that people have not experienced severe water-logging in the past six years.
But what has the alliance done to improve the city?
Nearly 65% of our Rs 22,000-crore budget goes into establishment expenditure – staff salaries and maintenance of the BMC. A few years ago, this figure was 70%. We have ploughed the remaining Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000 crore into development work.
What will you do if you come to power?
We will pursue the agenda of development. Mumbai has transformed from a labour city to a service industry hub. Our agenda is to create infrastructure and provide 24-hours civic services so that the world’s top service sector companies set up shops in Mumbai. We want the city to be the world’s service sector hub. We will set up a special purpose body such as the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation and raise money from the markets.
Why should people vote you back to power?
We have proved ourselves and done much more than the Congress-NCP combine. You should realise that the BJP-SS-RPI worker is the helpline of Mumbai. If any citizen has a problem and goes to the nearby naka, it will be these workers who will help out. You won’t find Congress or NCP workers helping.
In 2007, the Congress and the NCP together had 37% votes, while the saffron alliance polled 31%. Now they are in alliance. Wont you be facing tough competition?
There is rebellion in the Congress and the NCP, which will cut down their votes by 10% to 15%.
Your party takes pride in the discipline of its cadre, but there has been large-scale rebellion.
The rebels in our party are minimal. We have only six compared to 43 in the Congress. Most of our problems are because of ward reservations, where people believe they have got a rough deal. The rebellion is a matter of concern, but some of them will back down in the next few days.
There are signs of strain in the BJP-Sena relations. You and Raj Thackeray are friends. Are you looking at the MNS as your future partner?
Our alliance with the Sena is as strong as ever. As for the MNS, I have been the most critical person of its agenda. I have personal friendships with its leaders, but I don’t accept their ideology. I hate their anti-north Indian agenda. Fighting for the cause of Marathi people is different, being anti-north Indian is unacceptable. I don’t support the MNS and we are not looking at an alliance.