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A troubled inheritance

Mayor Shraddha Jadhav and Municipal Commissioner Swadheen Kshatriya have a tough task on hand, reports Sujit Mahamulkar & Amrita U. Kadam.

mumbai Updated: Dec 06, 2009 01:16 IST

Mayor Shraddha Jadhav and Municipal Commissioner Swadheen Kshatriya have a tough task on hand.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is grappling with a financial crisis that will affect its day-to-day working. Another challenge is the contrasting working styles of the incumbents – Jadhav is molded in the typical Shiv Sena culture, which advocates drastic measures, irrespective of procedure. Kshatriya represents the classic bureaucrat who goes strictly by the rulebook.

Especially given how Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray is spreading his wings ahead of the 2012 civic elections, it will be extremely difficult for Jadhav to push for unpopular measures like increased taxes.

Which probably explains why Jadhav, in her first speech, did not indicate any hard measures to deal with the fiscal burden. Political observers also see difficult times ahead. “Natural resources are depleting and we see uncontrollable growth in the city,” said political analyst Prakash Bal, adding: “What we see is just cosmetic changes, with core issues getting sidelined.”

The Sainiks too have a pessimistic outlook. “I don’t think they (Jadhav and Kshatriya) will handle the crisis well. The mayor anyway has no executive powers. Kshatriya will call the shots but even he may not take any tough decisions because of growing political pressure,” said a Sena corporator on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to media.

Jadhav told Hindustan Times that she would see that ongoing projects are not affected: “I will ask the heads of departments to keep me posted on the status of important projects.”

Kshatriya, a 1980 batch Indian Administrative Service officer, was appointed a month after his predecessor moved out. The soft-spoken officer – who rose through the ranks without any controversy – is intimately acquainted with the workings of the BMC, given his earlier experience as general manager of the municipal power and transport agency, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST). Kshatriya said he will work within the framework of the law, and not buckle under political pressure: “I will favour the common man’s interest.”

Congress corporator Ravi Raja said it would be interesting to see how Kshatriya rises to the challenge: “Let’s see how he defies political pressure and works by the rule book”. Raja has worked closely with Kshatriya for four years as a BEST committee member. “I hope he takes a positive approach and accepts the challenges,” he added.