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Thursday, Oct 06, 2022

Surat Mayor, Delhi CM, and that Singapore invite: AAP joins the dots

Boghawala will be attending the Singapore Summit – the eight such World Cities meeting -- from July 31 to August 3.

Surat Mayor Hemali Boghawala and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. (File photo)

While Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been denied permission by Lt Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena to visit Singapore for the World Cities Summit beginning July 31, the BJP claimed on Friday that the “only mayor from India” going for this meeting was Surat’s Hemali Boghawala.

For the overwrought political circles in Gujarat, there was an obvious connection. AAP is the main opposition party in the Surat Municipal Corporation, having picked up a stunning 27 of 120 wards in last year’s elections.

The Summit is seen as a showcase of cities considered among the best run in the world, and Kejriwal has been arguing that the Centre doesn’t want him to go and talk about his government’s achievements in Delhi.

After keeping his application pending for long, the Lt Governor turned it down Thursday on the ground that the Singapore summit prima facie seemed to be a conference of mayors and therefore, did not “befit attendance” by a CM. That day, Kejriwal incidentally was in Surat, announcing his flagship promise of free power up to 300 units if voted to power.

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Kejriwal has now written to the Ministry of External Affairs seeking clearance for the tour.

Ironically, just three months ago, when Kejriwal did a roadshow in Ahmedabad with his newly elected Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, BJP government spokesperson and Education Minister Jitu Vaghani had sought to dismiss the AAP convenor, calling him no more than the “Mayor of a large city”.

Boghawala will be attending the Singapore Summit – the eight such World Cities meeting — from July 31 to August 3, along with Surat Municipal Commissioner B N Pani, Standing Committee Chairperson Paresh Patel and City Engineer Ashish Dubey. Sources said the Mayor had been invited by the Singapore government.

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The BJP had been taken by surprise by AAP’s performance in the February 2021 local polls in Surat. Party Gujarat chief C R Paatil, who hails from Surat, had quipped at the time: “Bakru ne kaadhta, unth pethu (While herding out the goat, the camel got in)”, indicating that their attention had been focused on the Congress.

Since then, four of AAP’s 27 councillors have quit to join the BJP.

Indicating the weight it places on Surat for its Gujarat campaign, AAP has carefully gone about consolidating its gains in Patidar-dominated seats here. AAP’s Gujarat chief, Gopal Italia, is a Leuva Patidar from Surat and a former associate of Hardik Patel from the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti. Recently the party overhauled its entire state body but did not touch Italia.

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AAP has also directly pitted its ‘Delhi Model’ against the vaunted ‘Gujarat Model’. Delhi Deputy CM and Education Minister Manish Sisodia did the rounds of government schools in his Gujarat counterpart Vaghani’s constituency Bhavnagar recently, to underline the “difference” the Kejriwal government had brought about in the Capital. The BJP replied with a counter visit by a 17-member delegation to “assess” schools run by the Delhi government.

Gujarat BJP vice-president Janak Bagdanawala claimed Kejriwal’s protests over the Singapore meeting were a drama. “We know that the Delhi CM has not been invited for this event. So we believe that his permission request for Singapore tour has been rejected. They are spreading falsehoods. If he has got invitation, he should show it.”

A senior leader in the know said: “What does Kejriwal have to show at the World Cities conference? He would obviously have used the platform politically.”

Leader of Opposition in the Surat Municipal Corporation, AAP councillor Dharmesh Bhanderi, said that unlike Kejriwal, who had emerged as “a global leader”, “Surat Mayor Hemali Boghawala has no major experience as she has been in the post for only one-and-a-half years. The state BJP sent their teams to Delhi and randomly schools were selected (for assessment), but they still could not find a single fault. This shows how a government works.”

Bhanderi added: “The popularity of Kejriwal is growing not only in India but worldwide, and the BJP government is jealous of him. The work done in education, health and other sectors by the AAP government in Delhi has been appreciated worldwide.”

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Surat has been selected under the Resilient Cities segment, among with Jambi (Indonesia) and Seberang Pearl (Malaysia). Cities are expected to make presentations of their projects. Boghawala will speak on ‘Liveable and Sustainable cities, Cities Facing Extremes: How do we Adapt’.

Boghawala told The Indian Express: “I will get a chance to put the projects of Surat before an international platform where major reputable financial institutions from the world will be present. This will help us get funds for such projects.”

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City Engineer Dubey said: “The reason behind Surat’s selection is the work done by us on a large scale in cleaning up rivers and treating sewage water.”

First published on: 24-07-2022 at 12:27:25 pm
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