Differences within the Congress party over the city’s new development plan came to the fore on Monday. While the party’s legislative unit has opposed the “phenomenal” increase in floor space index (FSI) proposed in the draft development plan, the party’s new Mumbai unit chief Sanjay Nirupam came out in its support. The FSI is a development tool that defines the extent of construction permissible on a plot. It is the ratio of built-up area to total plot area.
After the crushing defeats in Lok Sabha elections as well as the assembly polls in Mumbai, the Congress High Command on Monday appointed Nirupam to lead the party in Mumbai. The prominent North Indian leader will replace incumbent Janardan Chandurkar, a Dalit leader, in the post.
The BMC, which is controlled by a Shiv Sena-led alliance, has proposed to hike FSI in city up to eight, which would mean that construction up to eight times the plot size would be permissible in certain areas.
Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who is the leader of opposition in the state assembly, had earlier said his party was opposed to the plan. He had termed it ‘builder centric’.
But Nirupam chose to take a contrasting stance on Monday. “There must be no curbs on the FSI as long as there is infrastructure to support the increase in FSI. Restricting FSI is a tool to hike real estate prices,” Nirupam said, arguing further that increasing FSI would mean creation of more houses, which would bring down rates. The two leaders, however, were on the same side with regard to the plan to revive Mumbai’s night life. Vikhe-Patil had slammed the plan earlier. Nirupam, too, lashed out at it on Monday.
“Even now, bars remain open till 1.30 am. Is that not enough? What is the government trying to do? What is the need to facilitate drinking all night? Drunk driving is the biggest menace in Mumbai. Do the Mumbai police and the traffic police have the capacity to man streets all night to nab offenders and keep law and order intact? We (The Congress) are strongly opposed to it. It is just a ploy to hide the government’s failure to deliver on the promise of creating new jobs,” he said.
Planning to formally take over party reins in Mumbai after Holi celebrations, Nirupam said his priority would be to regain the party’s lost support base. “Mumbai has long remained loyal to the Congress. But the party’s support base has shrunk. We plan to reach out to voters more aggressively.”
The party was wiped out in LS polls in Mumbai, with Nirupam himself losing his North Mumbai seat. The party was nearly annihilated in the assembly polls, too. Nirupam refused to comment on how he plans to overcome factionalism in the city unit. “Not today,” he said.