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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Amid civic woes, BJP struggles to keep control of Navi Mumbai, Panvel

cities Updated: Oct 19, 2019 00:58 IST
Padmja Sinha and G Mohiuddin Jeddy
Padmja Sinha and G Mohiuddin Jeddy

The fight for the upcoming Assembly elections in the planned cities of Navi Mumbai and Panvel, developed to decongest Mumbai, will see former minister Ganesh Naik contesting on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket against Mathadi leader Ganesh Shinde of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Airoli; sitting BJP MLA Manda Mhatre take on NCP’s Ashok Gawde and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s city unit chief Gajanan Kale in Belapur; and Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) candidate Haresh Manohar Keni against two-time MLA and City Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) chairman Prashant Thakur of the BJP in Panvel.

With the airport construction work underway near Panvel, the node has seen rapid expansion in the past few years.

The fight in Panvel, which has five lakh voters, could be tough this time as the node has been a PWP bastion since 1962 with a largely Marathi-speaking voter base. With PWP leader Pritam Mahatre, the opposition leader in the Panvel City Municipal Corporation (PCMC) backing out of the elections, Keni has found support from the Congress and the NCP.

As Thakur is the Cidco chief, residents had expected he would solve the issues of the node. All basic amenities in Panvel node have been taken care of the Cidco till now.

The PCMC, formed under Thakur’s guidance, is yet to take over the responsibilities entirely. However, the problems have not been addressed, say residents and activists.

“Keni might get an advantage over the sitting MLA Thakur. Initially, Thakur was with the Congress and then with BJP, but he hardly paid any heed to the many problems in node despite being Cidco chief. From housing societies to villages, everyone is suffering owing to water and road issues. Kharghar and the nearby nodes have been facing air and water pollution for years, but he has not addressed it,” said Dinesh Mane, a political analyst.

Thakur, however, seemed confident of his win. “We have worked in several areas and we are taking steps to improve water supply in Kharghar. Water and road issues has already been taken up with Cidco,” he said.

Shrikant Patil, an activist who has been following Panvel’s politics, said the BJP has to reach out to the rural voters.

“Despite being a PWP bastion for years, voters wanted a change. BJP has been able to reach out to the masses with its social media connect. But, people are not happy with BJP’s work in the past five years. Rural areas remain neglected. Voters may opt for PWP.”

Keni said he will try his best to put up a tough fight. “My main objective will be to ensure that the residents are able to get basic amenities. Even as a corporator, I have always fought for this and will continue to do so.”

Meanwhile, in Navi Mumbai, which has won several awards from the state and Central government and is ranked the cleanest in the state under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, problems like faulty planning and substandard construction of buildings have not been resolved despite repeated poll promises. The city has been divided into two Assembly constituencies — Airoli and Belapur — and consists of residential and commercial areas along with the Thane-Belapur industrial belt. The buildings constructed by Cidco are dilapidated, with several declared dangerous. Redevelopment of many buildings has been stuck owing to legal hassles and political intervention. Manda Mhatre, who had defeated Naik last time, has been fielded yet again by the BJP from Belapur.

“I have resolved several long-pending issues in my five-year tenure by getting an order on additional floor space index and starting the process for the survey of project-affected people’s (PAP) houses. There have been hurdles in their implementation, which will be taken care of in the next five years. There will also be a single-window system to get approvals from the Navi Mumbai civic body and the Cidco,” said Mhatre.

Saurabh Pandya, 42, a social activist, said air pollution from the industrial belt and pollution caused by dumping of untreated sewage in open nullahs is a major health risk for residents.

“Nothing much has been done about it.”

In Airoli, former minister Ganesh Naik has been fielded by the BJP after his son, former MLA Sandeep Naik, gave up his seat for him. Having publicly accepted the fact that he had not been able to resolve the issues of FSI and regularization despite being in power for 15 years, Naik said, “There were political issues during the Congress-NCP government which prevented official declarations of the decisions, though they had been accepted in principle. It was a question of who would get credit.”