Ashish Shelar is not only chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mumbai but also a legislator from Bandra (West) and multiple-term former corporator. Among the top brass of the party that will plan strategy ahead of elections to the BMC, Shelar is pitching for a white paper on accountability and tax rates based on service delivery. Excerpts from an interview to Vishwas Waghmode:
The Bharatiya Janata Party has emerged as the single largest party after the first phase of municipal council polls, reportedly on account of demonetisation. Will demonetisation have an impact on the BMC polls?
Certainly. As the days pass, it will have more positive impact. For example, prior to the demonetisation, the BMC’s property tax revenue, water tax revenue, road tax and cess was pending for the last few years, through non-collection of taxes. Following the demonetisation, the tax collection has become surplus. So it is a proven fact that the decision has helped strengthen municipal corporations. The demonetisation decision will also zero down on corruption. That will lead to increased accountability.
A section of BJP activists is keen on contesting BMC polls solo while Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said they are open to an alliance with the Sena. But the Mumbai BJP under your leadership is gearing up for all 227 seats.
BJP’s official stand, from activists to the CM, is same — to increase the BJP’s base in all 227 wards and to serve the people in all these wards. Election is a political decision. Since the chief minister is the head of our party, we will sit with him to take a call on what will be in the interest of the BJP.
On one hand, the BJP levels allegations of corruption saying a particular ruling party is in grip of a ‘Bandra Saheb’. And on the other hand, some leaders believe a tie-up with the Sena for the BMC polls is possible. How do those reconcile?
If officials and contractors are involved in corruption and if they have been backed by anybody, we will continue to speak against it, file complaints and FIR and send them behind bars. These things are expected by Mumbaikars and we will not back out. As for a political decision, we will take it at a political forum.
What are the major achievements of the BJP in the BMC?
Firstly, we continued to speak on the corruption in the estates department, roads and nullahs and exposed it. This is our biggest achievement. Secondly, decisions in the BMC and the state government about redevelopment of dilapidated buildings are by the BJP.
Nobody can snatch credit from the BJP for upcoming projects, from coastal road to Metro, which are alternative transport systems. Also, the elevated rail. We don’t just talk but have approved these things. All of this is the work of the BJP.
What issues will top the BJP’s manifesto for the BMC polls?
Mumbaikars are expecting accountability. In case of roads, they want good roads. They expect drain de-silting should be done properly. If there are potholes, they should be filled. We will bring out a white paper on accountability, stating what hasn’t been done yet and what should be done. The white paper would list delays in building good roads, in nullah cleaning, delays in garbage collection, with reasons, analysis and electronic solutions to these issues. Secondly, the BMC should be corruption free. This is the first CM who has ensured that FIRs are filed against contractors and officials. It also raises questions about those ruling the state over the last 15 years. Now, those committing crimes are being punished. Thirdly, to reduce the burden of tax on Mumbaikars, we are considering levy of tax based on delivery of development work. The ratio should be studied and the tax should be collected based on the delivery of development work.
Amid the Union government’s attempt to end corruption, will you do anything to make election funding completely transparent?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji has taken another step asking for account details of MLAs and MPs. It should be noted that no other political party has done this. Nobody has supported this. It’s clear now which leader and which party is corrupt. And to ensure that BJP candidates do not need to spend above EC-appointed limits, we will communicate more via social media.