A day after the Maharashtra Election Commission sounded the bugle for the municipal polls, the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Thursday upped the ante against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, accusing it of “playing an active role” in the parcelling out of prime lands reserved for public purposes in Mumbai.
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The NCP is not being seen as a prime contender in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls.
The party’s national spokesperson Nawab Malik trained his guns on BJP’s Mumbai unit chief and sitting MLA Ashish Shelar, alleging that he was the “mastermind of the land dereservation scam.” The allegation evoked a response from Shelar, who rubbished Malik’s claims. Countering the accusation, Shelar fired a salvo at the previous Congress-NCP regime in the state, alleging that that government had actively parcelled out reserved lands.
In the build-up to the BMC election, the BJP has raised allegations of corruption in road, nullah, and water contracts, which were allotted by the Standing Committee of the municipality. While a Shiv Sena-BJP alliance is in power in the Mumbai municipality for over two decades, the Shiv Sena, which has more numbers in the civic body, heads the Standing Committee.
On Thursday, the NCP attempted to shift the focus to allegations of corruption in the civic Improvements Committee, which the BJP heads. Shelar, a former corporator, was himself an Improvements Committee chairman at one time.
While Malik has contended that his party will soon “release a list of all reserved plots that were dereserved by the Improvements Committee over the past two decades”, he alleged on Thursday that a 43,000-odd square feet plot in Bandra (West), which was reserved for a public playground and a library, was dereserved to “favour a private developer.” Shelar represents the Bandra constituency .
While the NCP leader claimed that the plot was dereserved by the improvements committee, Shelar refuted it. “First of all, the plot was dereserved at a time when a Congress MLA and a Congress corporator represented the region. Secondly, the dereservation was carried out at the instance of the state’s Urban Development department (then headed by a Congress Chief Minister),” he said.
Rubbishing Malik’s claims, Shelar dared him to “produce any evidence” that links him or the BJP to the dereservation exercise. Malik, however, stuck to his stand. “The BJP-headed Improvements Committee has parcelled out lands worth Rs 2 lakh crore over the past two decades,” he said.