The BJP seeking to abolish octroi and ally Shiv Sena reluctant to do away with the biggest source of revenue for the civic body is likely to force the BJP to come out with a separate manifesto for the February 16 polls.
In a meeting on Sunday held by Venkaiah Naidu,who is in charge of BJPs organisational matters in Maharashtra,leaders of the party decided to discuss the possibility of abolishing octroi in the city with Sena leaders and that if the discussion failed,the BJP will draft a separate manifesto,as against a joint manifesto seen in the BMC elections in the past.
BJP corporator from Ghatkopar,Bhalchandra Shirshat said a group of 12 BJP Mumbai unit leaders,including himself and Khar corporator Ashish Shelar,are already drafting a manifesto. The 12 of us have put together points that we,as BJP members,would like to see in this city. Abolition of octroi is one of the main points. Our senior state leaders can use points from it during talks with Shiv Sena leaders, Shirshat said.
BJP city unit chief Raj Purohit had on Tuesday said their first priority would be abolition of octroi in the commercial capital. The trader and business class,who pay octroi ranging from 3.5 percent to 14 percent,are known to be traditional BJP supporters. Abolishing octroi is their demand.
On Sunday Purohit said they will try to resolve the matter with Sena leaders in the next few days. The BMC is one of the few civic bodies in the state to still levy octroi. There should be an alternative to this taxation and the matter should be our priority for the city. We will form a manifesto jointly with the Sena and RPI only if a consensus is reached on this issue, he said.
Octroi remains the largest source of revenue for the richest civic body but BJP leaders argue that corruption and overall changes in revenue collection had rendered it unfit. They have suggested that taxes like the professional tax,betting tax from the race course and entertainment tax,diverted to the government coffers,be kept with the civic body instead.
Sena leaders are adamant and feel octroi should continue. Sena corporator and standing committee chairman in the outgoing BMC house,Rahul Shewale,said revenue from octroi is as huge as Rs 6,000 crore. How many alternate taxes will be levied to get us so much revenue? Moreover,the state is already in debt of over Rs 1 lakh crore so we should not strain the state coffers. We will resolve our issues with BJP and are confident of drafting a joint manifesto, he said.
On the matter of Shelar threatening to quit,Purohit said things have been sorted out. Shelar,who had been sulking after a booklet on BJPs work in the city did not carry his photo or name,said, Such mistakes happen. The issue has been resolved as I have been promised that my name will be mentioned in all future campaign material.