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‘All Cong has succeeded in doing is make Mumbai the most expensive city to live in’

Congress city president Janardan Chandurkar and BJP city president Ashish Shelar spell out their agendas, in an Idea Exchange.

BJP city president Ashish Shelar (left) and Congress city president Janardan Chandurkar. (Vasant Prabhu) BJP city president Ashish Shelar (left) and Congress city president Janardan Chandurkar. (Vasant Prabhu)

Shubhangi Khapre: When you go out for campaigning, how will you convince people to vote for you?
Chandurkar: Firstly, I am confident that Congress will retain all the five MP seats that it won in Mumbai in 2009. Congress has done a number of landmark things over the past five years to change the face of Mumbai. Metro rail, monorail, Sahar elevated road and Eastern Freeway are some of the major achievements of Congress in Mumbai.
Shelar: The projects listed by Mr Chandurkar are driven by benefit to the contractor. Have they helped in resolving Mumbai’s traffic congestion or make commuting easier? The average travelling time is constantly on the rise. These projects have also taken a long time to be completed, resulting in high cost escalation. The Congress-NCP combine has done these works in a piecemeal manner and for their political benefit, not for the benefit of the city. All it has succeeded in doing is to making Mumbai the most expensive city to live in. The monorail has never been a commercially viable project and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has admitted that the government will have to levy a betterment charge or betterment tax on Mumbaikars to recover this cost.

Sandeep Ashar: What is BJP’s model of development? How differently will you do things in Mumbai to make it more livable?
Shelar: We want to give a human-face time-bound development model for the city which will save money and give services faster, without delays.

Mayura Janwalkar: Mumbai’s image of being a safe city for women took a hit last year. How do both alliances plan to change that?
Chandurkar: Women’s safety is of prime importance and the government needs to do everything it  can to stop crimes against women. But even as much needs to be done by the government, the society’s mindset needs to change too. In Mumbai Congress, we regularly take training sessions for women and sensitise youth.
Shelar: Women’s safety does not have to do only with policing. Urgent police and judicial reforms are needed not only in terms of law but also in the approach of policemen and lawyers towards cases of crime against women. The current prosecution mechanism is lagging where those guilty are not being punished. Till this is changed, crimes against women will not come down.

Zeeshan Shaikh: Gopinath Munde has promised a toll-free Maharashtra. How do you plan to make Mumbai toll-free? How do you plan to construct roads if you are to abolish toll?
Shelar: BJP is not of the opinion that toll is not necessary in the economic model. We are saying that the Congress-NCP government has tolled roads where it is not needed. As a party having made the promise of toll-free Maharashtra, we will identify sources from which we can raise money to build roads. Having said that, we are not ruling out the principle of toll collection but want to make Maharashtra toll-free. We will announce our way of doing it ahead of assembly elections.

Shubhangi Khapre: Despite repeated extension of slum cut-off deadlines, the problem of rehousing slum dwellers remains unsolved. How realistic is your slum-free Mumbai dream?
Chandurkar: It is more humanistic than realistic. Due to large-scale employment opportunities in the city, a lot of people come here and end up living in slums, without amenities like drinking water, electricity and sanitation. Slum dwellings that came up till 2000 will get these basic amenities now. Unless all slum dwellers are rehabilitated, housing crunch in Mumbai will remain.

Stuti Shukla: What is BJP’s plan to solve the slum and housing problem in Mumbai?
Shelar: Affordable housing for all is the need of the hour. There are a number of provisions in the law for affordable housing but they are never implemented. The concept of rental housing had our backing but it was never well-implemented. If we come to power, we will amend DC Rules in a way that affordable housing becomes a reality. The Congress-NCP combine only extends slum cut-off datelines when elections approach.
Sandeep Ashar: But both the parties have been mum on checking real estate prices in the city. Moreover, the government is not constructing affordable housing at all.

Chandurkar: Mumbai is perhaps the costliest city in terms of housing. The problem is very complicated. Government has limited land of its own where it can develop housing. We are also trying to extend MMR area to create affordable housing. Current paucity of land in Mumbai is the biggest hurdle in providing housing to all. I believe that a strong legislation should be in place to check prices and rein in the land mafia.
Shelar: The current government does not have a clear policy on utilising available land for housing in the future. Projects are undertaken to benefit private builders.

Shubhangi Khapre: Why should citizens vote for your respective prime ministerial
candidates?
Chandurkar: Rahul Gandhi is a person who does more and speaks less. Narendra Modi is a personality who speaks more than he does. Rahul Gandhi has had a good amount of training in governance because of the family he belongs to. In a recent function in Arunachal Pradesh, Modi publicly warned China not to enter Indian territory, in a way that a prime minister would. He has presumed that he is the PM. The job of a chief minister is different from that of a PM. There projection of Rahul Gandhi is different from how the BJP is projecting Modi.
Shelar: Modi is an executer and an orator. He has the right approach towards upliftment of the poor and infrastructure development. And of course, his stand of non-corruption is something that appeals to the masses.

Tabassum Barnagarwala: What will be AAP’s impact in Mumbai?
Shelar: As far as Mumbai is concerned, I doubt if AAP candidates will be able to retain their deposit. AAP has lost its charm and has no leadership or agenda.
Chandurkar: Congress is in a good enough position to not be affected by AAP. Our five candidates, all sitting MPs, are national leaders. In fact, AAP has been exposing Modi of late, so we think it will work in our favour.

Sandeep Ashar: Sena-BJP is a divided house after senior BJP leaders met Raj Thackeray. How will you convince voters who are confused about the current position of your alliance?
Shelar: Sena-BJP house is not at all divided. We have amicably sorted out seat-sharing. In a political scenario, one can meet anybody without obligations. Only for decision making you need to take your alliance partner into confidence.

Sandeep Ashar: Raj Thackeray has declared support to Modi if MNS candidates come to power. Your alliance partner is not okay with it. Would the BJP take support of MNS candidates?
Shelar: Whether or not MNS candidates will extend support to us is a question they need to be asked. The BJP is not going to seek support from MNS. Rajiv Pratap Rudy has declared that NDA is confident of getting 300 seats in the Lok Sabha, so the question of seeking support does not arise. Today’s answer is that we will not go to MNS for support. We do not have to bother about MNS’ influence because our influence has increased.
Anant Goenka: If there is a difference between the section of people who vote for Sena and those who vote for the BJP, how do you deal with this? For example, voters in south Mumbai would like to see Modi’s corporate friendly face.
Shelar: We have designed our campaign keeping these in mind. We have strategised on how Sena should work where BJP is contesting and vice versa.

Krishna Uppuluri: BJP keeps attacking Congress of dynastic politics. In this contest, is it right to ask whether Poonam Mahajan got a LS ticket in Mumbai because of her father (late) Pramod Mahajan?
Shelar: Poonam was not brought in to politics directly. She has fought an election before this and has been working for the party since the past 10 years. She is also our national secretary.

Zeeshan Shaikh: What are your chances in Mumbai?
Shelar: We will win all six seats in Mumbai.
Chandurkar: MNS will divide Marathi votes, affecting Sena and the infighting between Sena and BJP will eventually help the Congress-NCP and we will retain all the six seats.
Transcribed by Stuti Shukla

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