Walking swiftly during his campaign rally in the congested lanes of Mahalaxmi’s Dhobi Ghat, MNS candidate Bala Nandgaonkar talks about his take on several issues with an eye on the upcoming elections.
Who presents you the toughest competition in South Mumbai constituency?
I feel my competition is only with the Congress. Last time, I had the second highest votes at 1.59 lakh after Milind Deora. In the last five years, people have been unhappy with his performance, and I have done a lot of work. While candidates of other parties like AAP and Shiv Sena are also good, it is Deora with whom I compete, since he and his father have represented the constituency for years.
What work have you done in the last five years for the constituency that might be a game-changer for you?
A lot actually, but one thing which will benefit all economic classes is my initiative to develop Sewri fort into a tourism centre. The proposal has been sanctioned and that area has been declared as a tourism spot. People from across the world will come to see flamingos in Sewri – also my home turf – which will generate revenue.
We have seen spouses of candidates accompanying them during rallies.
Does your wife also join you during campaigns?
No, my wife mostly stays at home. But, whenever there is some party-related work, I do seek her help. A lot of people, from the party and otherwise, visit our home and she ensures that they are at ease.
What are the key areas you are going to focus on if you win?
Women security is my priority. I will organise a six-day training for women to learn self-defense techniques. Generating employment is another concern for which I will work. South Mumbai is a mixed constituency with an area like Colaba facing a different set of issues from Sewri, which has chawls and severe employment issues.
The 2009 MNS manifesto stated that migrant population must be sent back to their respective states. What is your take on that?
I strongly support that thought. Mumbai is already struggling due to lack of space and if migrant population settles here, where will our locals go? MNS believes that first the state should serve its local population and then cater to migrants. Why can’t states like UP, Bihar and Haryana generate employment?
You have are 46 criminal cases pending against you. Do you think that can affect the voter’s mindset?
All the cases against me are concerned with efforts I have put in for public like creating employment, reducing poverty and providing security. I am proud of all the criminal cases registered against me. Deora has no criminal case against him, because he is in power and he gets what he wants. I have to indulge in protests to be heard. I don’t like getting cases registered against me, but if there is no other way, I don’t mind protesting.
Speaking of protests, there was a lot of agitation at a debate you were invited to, after a lady questioned the act of MNS workers to destroy toll-nakas.
We had no option but to protest. MNS had surveyed toll nakas across the city and met the chief minister four times regarding the issue. We realised that with the revenue generated every day, the government had already recovered the cost of constructing a few roads, but taxes were still being charged from commuters. Since the CM took no step, we had to intervene.
What is your take on the concept of ‘night life’ that Shiv Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray has been propagating?
There is no harm in having a night-life in the city. It is good that the city’s vibrancy will be maintained. But, I feel all stakeholders must sit together and formulate proper policies for it. I will not want my son and daughter to stay out all night, as safety is an issue.
What do you feel about the cell-phone towers policy that Deora has been taking credit for?
Nandgaonkar: At present, the standards laid down by the World Health Organisation, central government, state government and the BMC are all different from each other. Even though Deora has worked towards reducing radiation, if I win the Lok Sabha elections, I will ensure that I create a policy that takes into consideration all the four bodies. A cell-phone tower policy can’t work if the BMC and state government have different norms.