With migrants versus locals issue on backburner now,SP MLA and its most public face Abu Asim Azmi has major plans for the upcoming elections. SP had seven corporators in the outgoing Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and has now fielded 122 candidates for the polls. This includes a few workers who defected from rival Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Apart from his focus on elections in Mumbai,Azmi is busy campaigning for assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh:
What is your main campaign agenda for the upcoming elections?
We are looking to field candidates who are not corrupt. We do not want candidates who win elections on the basis of money. We mostly work in slum areas and we need candidates who can go and work in slum areas. Water supply and sanitation is our main focus areas in the campaign.
The government has recently decided on the 1995 deadline for slum regularisation,what is your opinion about it?
The government decision is creating division among slumdwellers in the city. In some parts they have agreed for the 2000 deadline and in others it is 1995. How can such a division be acceptable? They are going against their promise to regularise all slums till 2000. Moreover,once a promise is made,they should ensure that all slumdwellers get housing.
What can be done now about it? What is your opinion?
Shiv Sena regularised slums till 1995 and said local officers – police,ward officers will be held responsible if slums grow further. After 20 years,no action has been taken against any officials. They are responsible for the slums to grow. Once people start living in the city,it is the responsibility of the government to give them proper housing,water supply,facilities for education and healthcare.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray has once again blamed UP,Bihar migrants for crime in the city. What is your stand?
Are there no Maharashtrians arrested for any crime? These statements are only for political gains. People have stopped coming to Maharashtra,they prefer to go to Gujarat or Karnataka. If Thackeray says he will find locals to work,let him send them to the textile mills in Bhiwandi.
Is MNS your main opponent in the elections?
MNS and Shiv Sena are both our targets because they are regional parties. They have targeted me and my party. They talk on regional lines and are traitors.
You had seven corporators in the civic body,but complaints of water,roads came from their areas as well.
There is little that a corporator can do. The responsibility of clearingworks remains with the administration,which the government controls. Even if the corporator wants to use funds in his area,he has to get them sanctioned.
You were learning Marathi,how much have you progressed?
I did take a few lessons and have collected some books in my office. I can speak and read a little but not very well. Since I am an MLA,I have to understand Marathi as most of my work is conducted in Marathi. I regret that I havent been able to pick the language as well as I wanted.
SP was part of the third front formed two years ago uniting republican and other secular parties. Why did the Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF) not survive?
It was largely due to the division of seats. Many of our colleagues ended up withdrawing their candidates in favour of the Congress. Even after elections MLAs and workers would not regularly attend meetings,I then walked out of the formation.
Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have recently asked UP residents as to how long they will go to Maharashtra to beg. What is your comment?
They should feel ashamed because their party has been in governance in most parts of the country for a long time. They have not been able to provide facilities in those states because of which people are migrating. To say that they are begging is an insult.