Opposition parties in the BMC, including Congress and NCP, took on Shiv Sena and the civic administration on Tuesday over the decision to waive penalty imposed on The Taj Mahal Palace hotel while going back on the word on waiving property tax for residents who stay in homes measuring less than 500 sq ft.
While Congress and NCP are part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government along with Sena, the two parties held back no punches in attacking Sena’s functioning in the BMC.
Opposition leader Ravi Raja from Congress, NCP corporator Rakhi Jadhav and Samajwadi Party MLA Rais Shaikh held a joint press conference targeting the Sena-led BMC for clearing a proposal to waive around Rs 9.5 crore penalty imposed on The Taj Mahal Palace.
The hotel had occupied an adjacent footpath and parts of a road to enhance security after the 26/11 attacks as per the advice of police. The BMC had charged the hotel Rs 9.5 crore for using the footpath between June 2009 and January 2020. The hotel had contested the decision and paid only Rs 66.52 lakh, which is 50 percent of the charges for occupying the road. Subsequently, BMC had moved a proposal to waive the remaining dues. “Why is BMC not following Lokayukta directions to make a policy on such occupation of public places? It has not given any concession to other commercial buildings that occupies public places for security in the same area. Why is it being done only for a particular hotel?” asked Raja while questioning Sena on not rejecting the proposal.
Rais Shaikh, also a member of the BMC Standing Committee, said: “While the BMC is giving relief to hotels by waiving property tax, announcing special packages for hoardings operators and waiving charges of Hotel Taj Mahal, it is increasing the tax burden on the poor and middle class. Sena had assured that relief in property taxes will be given to those with homes below 500 sq feet… it has, however, exempted on only the ‘general tax’ component of the property tax. There have been no change in the eight other components of the property tax.”
The corporators further levelled serious allegations on Covid-19 purchases and setting up treatment facilities. “In the name of Covid-19, BMC has been involved in a scam of Rs 2,000 crore. The administration has already spent Rs 1,600 crore and now it wants another Rs 400 crore to spend till March, next year. There is no transparency in procurements and despite seeking details, no report has been submitted,” said Shaikh.
BMC Standing Committee Chairman and Sena corporator Yashwant Jadhav, however, denied all allegations. “There is no truth in allegations made by Congress and the other parties. We have always supported them in public works. We are not in alliance in BMC but we respect each other’s thoughts and work together. It could be possible that some works have not materialised but levelling these kinds of allegations are not right. All the allegations are baseless.”
BMC run from Varsha: Cong
Congress on Tuesday alleged that BMC is run by Varsha — the official residence of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Opposition leader Ravi Raja from the Congress said: “The BMC is being run from Varsha bungalow. The commissioner doesn’t have time to meet us and we always get a response that he is in Varsha. There should be a permanent cabin for him at the bungalow.”
“We always try to speak to the ruling party, but whenever we raise a query, Sena says the order came from above. They don’t consult us in any public related issue,” he added.