Rais Shaikh is the most prominent face of the Samajwadi Party in the BMC. Corporator Rais Shaikh will be returning to Madanpura, right in the heart of what is believed to be the only stronghold of the AIMIM in the city, to contest.
What are the Samajwadi Party’s successes in the BMC in the last five years?
The Samajwadi Party has played the role of the principal opposition in the corporation. Our party has been vocal on all issues whether it involves corruption, the inefficiency of the administration, non-utilisation of funds or the excessive misuse of power by Shiv Sena-BJP. The Congress and the NCP have failed to be an effective opposition force. We presented a programme for the improvement of slum infrastructure. We brought in the model slum project for systematic utilisation of funds in slums. We were the watchdogs of the citizens in the dumping ground matter as well.
Apart from the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, the AIMIM will also be vying for the minority vote. How will you counter them?
Firstly, MIM doesn’t have any agenda and is completely correlated to the growth of the BJP. No one knew Akbar or Asaduddin Owaisi prior to the announcement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as candidate. A party without an agenda cannot succeed for long and MIM stands exposed as only polarisation cannot bring success every time. Recent results from Nanded and Aurangabad show that this party can succeed only once. The SP has a 20-year track record of sincere, honest work. Also, MIM suffers from lack of leadership. There is a huge feeling of anti-incumbency against the local (Byculla) MLA. I think MIM won’t be able to open its account in the BMC. The Congress has its own problems and is a divided house. The NCP has only a marginal presence in Mumbai.
Do you think with all these parties contesting solo, the secular vote will be divided?
It is certainly bad news that secular parties are contesting separately. It is one of the most important reasons that the Sena-BJP will come back to power. The larger secular party, Congress, should bring the opposition together, but unfortunately, in the Assembly elections, it ditched the SP at the last moment. The Congress, thus, cannot be trusted and it will be the biggest loser in the upcoming civic elections. The attitude of the Congress party is so bad that alliance is no longer an option, which has compelled all of us to contest solo.
What are the issues on your agenda ahead of the civic polls?
The old city is suffering from lack of urban planning and people have migrated from the area because of congestion and deterioration in the quality of life. The right to walk, which is a citizen’s right to move around, will be our first priority in South Mumbai. Another major issue is related to the cessed buildings, which have been neglected by the state government for very long. The government has failed to fulfil its mandate as far as re-development of cessed buildings is concerned. We will talk about issues that affect the common man.
How do you view the Shiv Sena and the BJP’s squabbling and blame-game in the BMC?
They may fight in public but when it comes to votes or power sharing, they will always unite. Corruption will bring them together and one cannot say that one party is responsible for 30 per cent and the other is responsible for 70 per cent of the scams. They are equally responsible for all scams. This culture of the Sena-BJP is responsible for the condition Mumbai is in today. All things considered, if they form an alliance, the Sena-BJP will come back to power.