Mumbai: The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra has long been alleging misuse of central agencies by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in power at the Centre, to settle political scores. However, closer to home, the Mumbai civic body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which was run by the Shiv Sena for over two decades till an administrator took over in March this year, has been targeting the MVA’s critics.
Since 2020, the BMC has sent notices about ‘unauthorised construction’ to at least five high-profile persons who have been critical of the MVA, especially the Shiv Sena and its leadership. The Sena, along with the Congress and NCP, is a partner in the MVA government.
On 10 May, Independent MP and MLA couple Navneet Kaur and Ravi Rana were sent a notice by the BMC about “illegal structures in their Mumbai house”.
The BMC said in the document that within seven days of receiving the notice, the couple has to show sufficient cause to prove that the alterations to their house were carried out in accordance with the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, else the civic body can take action.
Speaking to the media Wednesday, the politician couple lashed out at CM Uddhav Thackeray, accusing him of “Hitlershahi” (ruling like Hitler).
“I want to ask you, how low will you fall? I bought the house from the builder in the same condition and now, if it is problematic, why did you (BMC) give permission to the builder in 2005? This is nothing but shrewd politics being played in Maharashtra,” said Amravati MP Navneet Rana said.
Badnera MLA Ravi blamed CM Thackeray. “The CM fell so low that this notice was sent to us when we were in jail only at the behest of Uddhav Thackeray. The BMC is a den of corruption and we will expose it,” he claimed.
The couple is under arrest over plans to chant the Hanuman Chalisa outside the private residence of CM Thackeray.
When ThePrint contacted Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande, she defended the notices sent by the BMC to various political opponents.
“We are not following anybody’s footsteps in vindictive politics. What BJP leaders do is they go to central agencies’ officers and give names of our leaders. Here, the BMC is acting upon certain complaints that they receive. So, we are not into vindictive politics,” Kayande said.
Several leaders of the ruling MVA government have been under the central agencies’ lens — deputy CM Ajit Pawar, Eknath Khadse, Prajakt Tanpure and Parth Pawar from the NCP; Pratap Sarnaik, Anil Parab, Ravindra Waikar, Anandrao Adsul and Yashwant Jadhav from the Shiv Sena, along with party MP Sanjay Raut’s wife; and Arjun Khotkar and Nitin Raut from the Congress. Apart from this, two sitting ministers of the NCP, former home minister Anil Deshmukh and minorities minister Nawab Malik, are currently under arrest.
Previous notices to opponents
Not only the Rana couple, the BMC in April sent a similar show cause notice to BJP’s Mohit Kamboj for carrying out various works that the corporation said were “illegal” in the building that Kamboj lives in.
He was also given a seven-day notice period. In the document, the BMC pointed out several alterations as “unauthorised construction”. Some of the findings included amalgamation of two flats and converting them into a habitable area by removing walls. Kamboj reacted by saying that he would “fight the notice legally and expose the BMC’s corruption”.
Kamboj has been at loggerheads with the Shiv Sena and MVA leaders for around six months. He even levelled charges against jailed MVA minister Malik in 2021 and has been taking on Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on social media.
On the BMC notice, Kamboj said through his lawyers: “I have also proposed regularisation plans to the BMC on 11 April in order to regularise some of the irregularities that were pointed out by the authorities and have paid the scrutiny charges as well. We have fulfilled all the necessary requirements that the law has asked for and now the BMC needs to withdraw the notices.”
Union minister Narayan Rane, CM Thackeray’s bitter rival, was also not served notice by the civic body. Rane has been critical of the MVA and particularly Thackeray, and had alleged how in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, the government was “trying to save its own people”.
Post that, in February, Rane was sent a notice for his plush bungalow in Juhu, where the corporation alleged that several works were carried out without the permission of the BMC.
These notices were sent after RTI activist Santosh Daundkar filed multiple complaints with the BMC. But Rane, who was with the Shiv Sena earlier, is known to have personal issues with CM, and quit the Sena when Bal Thackeray anointed Uddhav as his heir. Since then, Rane has been a staunch opponent of the CM.
Post-2019, when Rane joined the BJP, he has been personally attacking Thackeray to the extent of saying that he would have given a tight slap to the CM for not knowing the year of India’s independence.
However, the case that brought this attitude of the BMC to the forefront was that of the demolition of actor Kangana Ranaut’s office.
In 2020, when Ranaut compared Mumbai to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and personally attacked CM Thackeray and Raut on Twitter, the BMC demolished some “illegal portion” of the actor’s office, invoking a lot of backlash as well as support on social media.
Vinod Mishra, group leader of BMC’s BJP wing, told ThePrint that “what the BMC is doing is nothing but to harass people who speak against them, and the BMC is being used as a tool by the ruling dispensation against its opponents”.
“This is political vendetta. The BMC should first check its own backyard, and the offices of the corporation. Several BMC officers’ homes could also be illegal. Why don’t they start from there?” Mishra asked.
In the past, famous radio jockey Malishka had roasted the BMC over potholes and terrible infrastructure through a parody song. The BMC was quick to send notice to her mother Lily Mendonsa over the detection of “mosquito breeding sites” at her home.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)