Though the new house of the municipal corporation (MC) here was constituted about one-and-a-half years ago, yet the MC has not taken any solid steps to improve the basic amenities in the city.
The roads in the city are in a bad condition and need immediate repairs, people often complain of irregular drinking water supply and lack of cleanliness, mushrooming of illegal constructions, corruption, inordinate delays to address complaints.
The Congress, the main opposition party with 21 councillors in the house of 60, has allegedly failed to raise the issues of citizens effectively. HT grilled Jagdish Raj, leader of opposition, on this. Excerpts are as follows:
Q: The Congress, as the main opposition in the MC, is alleged to have miserably failed to raise the city's issues in the house in an effective manner. It has so far proved itself as a toothless opposition party. What do you say?
To some extent, I agree to it personally. But, whenever we have got the opportunity to raise our voice, we have done so. I had been the most vocal at house meetings, you can check the minutes of the meetings. The problem is that these people are thick-skinned. Corruption is rampant in every branch and department of the MC. There seems to be a collective failure of the system.
Q The Congress boycotted the house meeting on January 24 in which over 120 items were passed with a voice vote in just 2 minutes. Is the party acting as a responsible opposition?
A: We felt cheated. We showed solidarity with the sweepers who had been on strike for more than 10 days. A day before the meeting, we conveyed it very clearly that our party would boycott the house meeting to join sweepers to extend support for their demands. On the day of the meeting also, we were kept in dark. The agitating sweepers did not inform us that their demands had been met and they were allowing the meeting to take place. We were fully prepared with our objections on different agenda points. Anyway, we are looking for legal options now to challenge the decisions taken by the house, specifically those not in public interest.
Q: A section of your party councillors attended the meeting, setting aside the party's decision, citing it as their moral responsibility to attend the meeting to raise the people's issues. It also exposed factionalism in the party.
A: They were present at the house meeting not because that they were concerned with the people's issues. They actually attended the meeting in protest that they were not taken into confidence when the decision to boycott the meeting was taken. Anyhow, they have flouted the party guidelines and the matter is under the consideration of PPCC president Partap Singh Bajwa. I will not comment on it.
Q: What is the problem with the dynamic group of councilors, formed by some of the councillors of your party? They were never seen comfortable under your leadership.
A: I never showed grudges against anybody of the dynamic group. For me, everyone, whosoever is serious about the city's development, is welcome. I am ready to raise voice on their behalf on every platform. I was elected through a ballot voting by the councillors. 17 councillors had voted in my favour. We are happy that they are raising the people's voice in their own ways.
Q: You have kept mum on the issue of corruption at crucial moments. Even MC officials say that you also force for favor in certain cases.
A: I am like an open book for anyone. The MC should certainly take action against all those whosoever have violated laws and rules. I am in politics and an elected councillor from my area for the fourth time. Sometimes, people approach me with their problems and I recommend them to the officials but I never force any of the officials to do illegal work.