Mumbai: Disbursing loans to hawkers, launching sewage treatment plant projects, breaking ground for new clinics and roads — routine activities of a municipal body have become high-profile in Mumbai. Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to visit the city Thursday to carry them out.
With the Mumbai civic polls expected to be held this year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is aggressively trying to wrest control of the country’s richest civic body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), from the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, which has ruled the BMC for 25 years. Most of this term was in an alliance with the BJP. The term of the BMC’s general body expired in March last year and an administrator has been in charge ever since.
Taking away the BMC from the Thackeray-led Sena would be the last straw for a party already wounded by the rebellion led by now Chief Minister, Eknath Shinde, which led it to be split into the Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, or Shiv Sena (UBT) and the Shinde-led Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena.
The results of the yet-to-be-announced BMC election could be crucial for the stability of the Maharashtra government, comprising the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena and the BJP, as it will show the Shinde faction’s political worth to the BJP.
Apart from the activities planned for Thursday, the Modi government has been actively pushing development projects in the state in an effort to strike a chord with the city’s electorate.
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Modi government’s Mumbai push
PM Modi will perform the ground-breaking ceremonies and inaugurate projects worth Rs 38,800 crore during his visit.
These include the inaugurations of new metro lines, which will be opened for public use from Friday, 20 clinics under the Mumbai civic body’s ‘Aapla Dawakhana’ scheme, and bhoomi pujan (ground-breaking) ceremonies for seven sewage treatment plants, three hospitals and the redevelopment of Mumbai’s iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Modi will also disburse loans worth Rs 10,000 to Rs 1.25 lakh to hawkers, under the PM Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi (SVANidhi) scheme.
The entrance to the plush Bandra Kurla Complex, where the inaugurations and project launches will take place, has been decorated with life-size cutouts of the PM, Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde, Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis and late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
Over the past four months, ministers in the Modi government have made announcements to push long-pending works in Mumbai.
In October 2022, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw agreed to hand over railway land in Dharavi to the state government. The railway land was key for the state government to push the much-delayed redevelopment of what is touted to be Asia’s largest slum.
The state government handed over a contract to revamp Dharavi to the Adani Group last year.
Similarly, earlier this week Union textiles minister Piyush Goyal said his ministry plans to speed up the development of 11 decrepit chawls on land belonging to the National Textiles Corporation (NTC) in Mumbai.
The move will open up 13.84 acres for redevelopment in prime south and central Mumbai and benefit around 2,062 occupants. A consultant has been appointed for the same, a press release from the ministry said.
Politically, the region — especially its chawls — has been a dedicated vote bank of the Thackeray-led Shiv Sena for decades.
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The Shiv Sena (UBT) has slammed Thursday’s inaugurations and bhoomi pujans as purely political.
“The BJP needs Narendra Modi even in local elections, which is why the PM has been called to inaugurate even local projects,” Shiv Sena (UBT) member of legislative council (MLC) Manisha Kayande told ThePrint.
The BJP hit back at these accusations by stressing the importance of these projects to the city.
“One may call all of these local projects, but Mumbai is the financial capital of the country. The leaders in power earlier only used to bleed the city. This government is completing projects important to Mumbai that should have been done years ago,” Manisha Chaudhary, BJP MLA from Mumbai’s Dahisar told ThePrint.
The sewage treatment plans will benefit Mumbai’s fisherfolk the most, by drastically cutting down on the pollution levels of Mumbai’s water bodies, Chaudhari said.
She added: “Aaditya Thackeray (Uddhav’s son) is an MLA from a constituency (Worli) with a large fisherfolk population, but his party (Shive Sena (UBT)) still could not implement the sewage treatment plant projects.”
Atul Bhatkhalkar, BJP MLA from Kandivali East, told ThePrint that the biggest beneficiary of PM Modi’s term has been Mumbai. “The government has solved all long pending transport and infrastructure woes of Mumbai and the larger Mumbai Metropolitan Region, such as bringing the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, the Navi Mumbai International Airport, and several Metro projects on track,” he said. The MLA added that the people of Mumbai will never forget this.
‘All projects started by Shiv Sena (UBT)’
Kayande meanwhile said the BJP was downgrading the calibre of the PM’s post by getting him to inaugurate civic works such as sewage treatment plants.
“Even for the metro lines that the PM is inaugurating, it is not like this is the first metro in the country or even in the city. Now, all cities have several metro lines. In fact, the construction of the metro lines that are being inaugurated was much delayed,” she said.
She also claimed that all the projects being inaugurated were initiated by the Thackeray-led Shiv Sena.
The Shiv Sena (UBT) has also slammed the BMC’s Rs 6,000-crore plan to concretise 400 kilometres of roads in Mumbai — one of the projects Modi is set to break ground for — citing certain irregularities in the tenders. The BMC has refuted the allegations.
(Edited by Theres Sudeep)
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