In 2014, BJP MP Gopal Shetty won the Mumbai North Lok Sabha seat by a margin of 3,80,000 votes, second only to the winning margin of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The former city BJP chief and MP from the constituency consisting of Malad West, Kandivali East, Charkop, Magathane, Borivali and Dahisar tells The Indian Express why the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has an upper hand in Maharashtra and his plans for his constituency if he is voted back to power
What do you think of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for the Lok Sabha elections?
In the last four-five years, the mindset of people has changed. People have accepted the model of development. There was a strain in the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for a few months but considering (Prime Minister) Modiji’s work, both parties have decided to go for the elections together once again. Accepting that there is a challenge from NCP and Congress, BJP and Shiv Sena needed to forge an alliance. I’m hopeful we will have a good show.
The airstrike has boosted morale. People will come in large numbers to vote for us. Our alliance has been strong before and after that.
Following the airstrike, Opposition has accused BJP of politicising the attack with an eye on elections. What do you think?
I don’t think one must use it for political gain. But whatever has happened, has happened. It is good that IAF did a wonderful job. And the Prime Minister took a right decision at the right time, and fortunately for us it went right. If anything wrong (during the airstrike) would have happened, then the BJP would have also faced that situation. This gain point is definitely going to favour us.
Party president Amit Shah claimed more than 250 were killed in the airstrike. The claim is being questioned by many.
I don’t want to comment on the number of casualties. At this moment, no one can be sure. Only the Pakistani government can state the number of casualties. Our Air Force went and finished the job in half-an-hour and returned. What is important is that we succeeded in the airstrike. The entire scenario has changed between India and Pakistan and even globally, and that is a game point.
How do you think the opposition alliance will play out in Mumbai and Maharashtra? Do you think they are stronger than last time?
Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister has done a wonderful job. People don’t trust NCP and Congress now. They have nothing in their hands to get votes. On the other hand, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has the upper hand. We are sure and hopeful that we’ll do better than last time.
Are you looking at any other Lok Sabha constituency to contest the polls?
No, not at all.
How have you utilised your MP Local Area Development Fund in the last five years?
In the last five years, I have met people daily. In every session of Parliament, I have attended every committee meeting. Other than Parliament, I have remained in public domain. I meet people regularly. There are a lot of development works I undertook, of roads, connectivity, gardens and playgrounds. I have helped provide more than 15,000 LPG connections. I have provided piped gas connection in a number of societies. One cannot say that Gopal Shetty has not done anything. Every half a kilometre, you can see some work done by me and my party.
There are allegations of encroachment on several plots in your constituency, like Poisar Gymkhana, Yuvak Mandal, Veer Savarkar Udyan, where you have been directly or indirectly involved.
These allegations are being made for the last 10 years. People are electing me again and again by higher margins. That means people are happy with my work. One should realise that by paying Rs 2, they are getting facilities for Rs 200 in some of these properties. Then why complain? It is the duty of an elected representative to give facilities, which I have.
What are the future projects that you plan to work on if re-elected?
My focus in the future will be on the housing sector. Many development projects have forced people to shift, developers have not completed work in time, in some cases there is a fight between the society and developer. I want to use my skills and expertise for such housing projects. I will work on it from now on. Government clearance for projects is an issue. We will try to streamline that.
With Metro construction simultaneously underway in various parts of the city, roads are dug up everywhere, causing traffic snarls. Could Metro work have been carried out in a phased manner?
It is about how we get the development work done. Like in case of Ghodbunder Road, I went there with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Bhayander MLA Narendra Mehta. The work got approved and is set to start.
When it comes to Metro, I worked for getting approvals from the environment department. I think it’s a right decision to start Metro work at once everywhere. Even if we had undertaken work phase-wise, people would have suffered. I think the idea to start work everywhere together and complete it quickly will help.