I want to see Mumbai a world-class city: Milind Deora
Milind Deora, the Congress candidate from South Mumbai, has an impeccable lineage.
Grandfather Sitaram Deora was an industrialist, philanthropist and social worker. Uncle Ramu Deora is active in various national and international bodies. Father Murli Deora is a former city mayor who led the Congress in Mumbai for over two decades and is now a Rajya Sabha member. Mother Hema Deora is a bridge champion.
Still, he has his work cut out for him as his opponent is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heavyweight Jaywantiben Mehta, the minister for state for power in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government.
Deora, 27, hopes to ride on the efforts of his NGO Sparsh to promote IT in south Mumbai schools by persuading corporates to contribute the hardware.
"Sparsh has helped 120 schools in south Mumbai and over 100,000 students. It is said politicians should do social service before they enter electoral politics. This is my social service," Deora told IANS in an interview.
Deora also promises to turn this commercial capital of India into what he terms a "world-class city".
Excerpts from the interview
Are you anxious about the ensuing polls?
A: I am confident, not anxious.
You are pitted against Jaywantiben Mehta...
A constituency like South Mumbai needs a representative who understands commerce and business. There are also a huge number of first-time voters, and it is important for young people to enter electoral politics.
Aren't you are young and inexperienced?
Only five percent of Lok Sabha MPs are under 35. Surely if a young, educated person with a global perspective enters politics, it is good. How can youth be liability? I may be young but I have new ideas, a fresh outlook towards politics. I believe firmly that politics is the most effective way of driving and facilitating change.
Still, you are taking on a heavyweight.
I have only one question - when was the last time Jaywantiben Mehta asked a question about South Mumbai in parliament? Experience is one issue and performance another. People should judge a candidate based on performance, not on experience alone. That's a question I am taking to the voters.
Mumbai contributes Rs.500 billion as taxes, but gets only Rs.25 billion as aid from the central government per year. The job of a Mumbai MP is to push for funds.
But the BJP says your father Murli Deora was unable to get more central budgetary allocation for Mumbai during his 22 years as Mumbai's Congress president and as MP.
I have heard that accusation. I shall not react to it in the manner the opposition wants me to do so. The work my father did for Mumbai is for all to see. People have not forgotten my father's role in getting Rs.1 billion for the development of the Dharavi slums when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister.
How different will you be?
I will work in two or three areas. One is the problem of old and dilapidated buildings. I also feel there should be an integrated, centrally backed fund for upgrading sewer lines in Mumbai. I am a young man. India needs a push from dynamic young leaders to develop at a faster rate.
What are your priorities?
I will work for improving the quality of life of Mumbaiites, improve the housing and protection of tenants rights, generate employment through vocational training and technical education, seek higher interest rates on investments of senior citizens and increase the budgetary allocation for Mumbai.
You have an elite image...
That is an impression. I have done plenty of work through Sparsh. Lots of young girls and boys have benefited from the computer literacy programme and we maintain a good relation with many of them. I have been talking a lot about unemployment because I believe vocational training and self-employment are good ways to solve it. Besides, accreditation of vocational training institutes to the private sector can help solve the problem.
What is your plan for Mumbai?
I want to see Mumbai become a world-class city.