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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

In Sion, worry over PMC Bank fraud is the only election issue

mumbai Updated: Oct 19, 2019 00:55 IST
Naresh Kamath
Naresh Kamath

The Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank scam is a major talking point in Sion-Koliwada constituency in central Mumbai. Reason: The bank was founded in this area, with seed money from many residents, and many voters and cooperative housing societies are members of this bank.

The constituency houses plush areas to the slums of Antop Hill. The area is cosmopolitan in nature, housing members of all communities such as Maharashtrians, Muslims, Gujaratis, Sikhs and South Indians. The BJP enjoys good support among the middle class in Sion, the Sena is strong in Pratiksha Nagar, while the Congress has pockets of influence among the slums at Antop Hill.

“There are about 50,000 account-holders of the PMC Bank in central Mumbai and a majority of them are living in this constituency,” said Rohan Singh, a retired employee. “I had deposited my entire provident fund amount there. How will I survive if this bank collapses?”

“It is a major issue and I am using every possible forum to highlight the role of the BJP in this scandal,” said Congress candidate Ganesh Yadav. “The BJP members run the bank and despite warning by the RBI, the state cooperative department turned a blind eye. Even today, the current BJP MLA is not showing any solidarity and my voters are suffering due to this apathy,” he said.

Sitting BJP legislator Tamil Selvan insisted that everything would be normal in due course of time. “I left the campaign midway and met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on behalf of the depositors of the PMC Bank. I asked him to hike the withdrawal limit to ₹4 lakh in view of the upcoming Diwali festival. He assured me that it would be done after the end of the Election Code of Conduct,” said Selvan.

Selvan is not very popular among BJP workers, but he seems to enjoy Fadnavis’s confidence. Fadnavis flew to Tamil Nadu to attend Selvan’s daughter’s wedding recently. BJP’s top leader Prasad Lad was initially trying to bag a seat for his wife Neeta. Local BJP leader Rajesh Shirwadkar was also lobbying hard for the seat. In addition, the Shiv Sena workers are not enthusiastically campaigning for Selvan.

In the Congress camp, there are rumblings as Yadav who lives in the nearby Wadala constituency was preferred over local leaders like Opposition leader in civic body Ravi Raja and veteran leader Upendra Doshi.

The constituency includes Wadala, Antop Hill, Wadala (East), Pratiksha Nagar, Rani Laxmibai Nagar, Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar and Kane Nagar. The area is faced with issues such as pollution from nearby factories, slow pace of revamp of old buildings and slums as well as perennial parking issue.

Social activist Gaurang Vora said the situation in the area has only deteriorated over the years. “The roads continue to be in bad shape while the parking problem has worsened. Just a few showers and the Gandhi market gets flooded. We have been requesting Selvan to hold regular meetings with citizens and apprise us of his work, but there has been no progress,” said Vora.

“I was responsible for widening of storm water drains and now the flooding has decreased by 70%. I am one of the most accessible legislators who started working the day I was elected,” said Selvan.