Senior BJP corporator from Ghatkopar (current chairman of the BMCs improvements committee and member of BJPs election committee) Bhalchandra Shirsat was a part of the BJP committee that wanted a separate manifesto for the party because of continued differences with the Sena over the abolition of octroi. Shirsat talks about the manifesto that was finally released on Thursday and the six party rebels.
The BJP has been asking for the abolition of octroi while Sena maintains that it is impossible to do away with it. The joint manifesto does not make any promises,but does say that octroi will be abolished if a suitable alternative is found. Is the BJP happy?
There is a section within the party that strongly feels that octroi should be abolished,but that is not the view of the party as a whole. Being a BJP corporator,my views are that octroi should be abolished as soon as possible. The state should emulate the successful alternatives that Gujarat has been following. Traders first pay VAT and then octroi. We do not mind paying more VAT in place of octroi since the latter is a lengthy tedious process and leads to a lot of corruption. But the ruling combine in the BMC fears whether the increased VAT amount will come from the state government to the BMC. The state government does not have the political will to abolish octroi.
You were a member of the election committee. BJP has seen four corporators and its general secretary Parag Alvani leaving the party over tickets not being allotted to them. Were the ticket allotment decisions taken purely on the basis of merit?
No one should be above the party. If a decision is taken by the party collectively on who deserves candidature,it should be accepted by everyone without doubt. It is unfortunate that we have lost these people who have served the party for many years.
You are going to be pitted against former BJP corporator Pravin Chheda who is now a Congressman. Considering his support in Ghatkopar,especially among the Gujarati community,are you confident of winning with the large margins that you have managed in the past elections?
Ward 124 has been with the BJP for 40 years and this will not change. The party is used to rebellions. The rivalry between me and Chheda is created by the media. There is no question of Gujarati-Marathi because in 2002 I had the highest victory margin of over 8,000 votes from Garodiya Nagar which is dominated by Gujaratis. People vote for BJP because of Narendra Modi and not because of Pravin Chheda. And Congress,which is struggling to find good candidates,is importing a few from our party. I am sure of winning with a 5,000-plus margin.
Is there a fear in the Sena-BJP camp after the Congress-NCP joined hands for the BMC elections?
Initially,when they announced their tieup till about 15 days ago,there was a certain fear among us. But during the campaigning,we sense a strong undercurrent in favour of Sena-BJP-RPI,like it was in favour of the MNS during Assembly elections. As on today,we are not afraid of losing.