After a six-month wait that saw high political drama, Kulwant Singh became the first mayor of Mohali. In an interview with Chandigarh Newsline, he talks about his plans for the city, his political career, and how he wants to keep politics aside while concentrating on Mohali’s development
Your election became a high-stakes one. Do you think that parting ways with SAD was the right decision?
I never wanted to part ways with the party. I have great respect for Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. But the local leadership headed by Balwant Singh Ramoowalia is not acceptable to us. They forced me to do it by denying tickets to the senior councillors who always stood by the party and sacrificed a lot. Ramoowalia and his stooges came here only three years back. They want to grab everything, which we will not let them do.
Don’t you think that the ruling party will pose difficulties for you after you make an alliance with the main Opposition?
No, I do not think so. I know Sukhbir Singh Badal personally. He does not have a habit of stalling development works due to political reasons. We are here to work, and we expect the same response from the government. The government is elected by the people. If it does good for the people of the city, then it will be to their advantage. Otherwise, they will end up attracting ire.
You had contested the Parliamentary elections against Congress on a SAD ticket. Will it be comfortable for you to work with them?
I don’t think there will be any problems. It is a thing of the past. I have always kept politics aside for the sake of development. I am confident that we will work in tandem and win the hearts of the people of Mohali.
What are the areas that need immediate attention?
Well, there are many. The first would be to make the city clean. I have held a meeting with the officials of the Municipal Corporation (MC) in this regard. Last month, a private company was given a sanitation contract.
What are the challenges?
There are a lot of challenges. There is no sound transport system, people are not getting adequate drinking water supply, and the garbage disposal system is crying for help. But, we will deal with all the challenges, one by one.
Do you think that the Opposition will also be a big challenge for you in the House?
(Laughs). Well, keeping the Opposition humoured will also be a challenge. But I know how to keep them in high spirits.
What will you do to start a city bus service in Mohali?
I am going to hold a meeting with the chief administrator of Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) in a few days to discuss this issue. A survey has already been done for the purpose. We will seek a grant for the same, and if we fail to get an adequate amount for the project, then we will borrow from a bank.
Any other changes that you want to see in the transport system of the city?
I would like to replace the existing autorickshaws with eco-friendly cabs. I want to make the city cleaner in every aspect.
What do you think about the mechanised sanitation system started recently in the city?
I have come to know that the system is not functioning well. But I want to give them some time. Let them prove themselves. We will then review their progress. However, we have made it clear that we want perfect results.
Acquiring land for a solid waste management plant in Samgauli seems to have hit rough weather.
What will you do to get the project through?
I will appeal to Derabassi MLA and Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Industries and Commerce, N K Sharma, for help in this matter. I know that some people are not happy with the project. But we have to sacrifice something for the sake of others.
I feel we will get the project completed in a short time. There is a huge difference between the demand and supply of drinking water in the city. How do you intend to bridge this gap?
Presently, the demand for drinking water in the city is around 27 million gallons daily (mgd), while the supply is only around 13 mgd. Further, out of the 60 tubewells in the city, a majority are not working. We will first get them repaired. The next in line would be to speed up the work of laying the Phase II water pipeline from Kajaujli Water Works. I have been told that a pipeline of 20-mgd capacity will be completed by the end of this year. Hopefully, this will solve the problem.
The parks in the city are in a state of neglect. Some are under GMADA, while others are managed by MC. How do you intend to go about it?
It is a big problem. We will see if we can bring all the parks under the wing of the MC. I will discuss this issue with the GMADA officials.
Any other projects that you want to initiate?
I want Mohali to have a quality government educational institute. The city is dotted with private educational institutes. I want students to get cheaper education. I will request the state government to start such an institute.
Don’t you think that there will be two power centres in the MC now— one being the mayor and the other the commissioner?
No, I don’t think so. Anybody can come to me to discuss anything. I have told this to all MC officials as well. I think ego leads us nowhere. If at all a cumbersome situation arises, I will handle it.
If approached by SAD, will you join the party again?
Please do not ask such heavy questions (laughs). Right now I am enjoying my victory. It is too early to say anything about it.
Any new taxes on the cards?
Currently, we have sufficient money. So, I don’t think that we need any new taxes at present.
Any tax relaxation for the residents?
Though it is not in my hands, I will definitely look into it.
What will be the agenda of your first meeting?
I need to discuss this with the councillors. As the meeting is going to be held this week, we will finalise it within a day or two.
Any messages for the Opposition?
I want to appeal to the Opposition to help us in developmental work.