Hung Municipal Corporation likely to choke key projects

by Web Desk | Updated: 2017-02-23

A fractured mandate and fractious corporators at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the country’s richest civic body, could potentially leave a host of infrastructure projects poorer.
Exit polls following the civic body elections on Tuesday give both parties about the same number of seats, with a slight uptrend for the Shiv Sena.
Several officials, serving and retired, that DNA spoke to said that if the two main parties in the BMC – the Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who decided to go it alone in the elections this year – get down to politicking with each other’s pet projects, it could be a case of ‘an eye for an eye making Mumbai blind’.
Already the acrimonious election campaign for the 227-seat BMC House has divided projects into ‘ours and theirs’, these officials said. The Kandivali to Nariman Point coastal road found a pride of place in Sena’s campaign, while a slew of metro lines are being seen as projects of the BJP, which rules the state.
The Sena has in its manifesto already opposed the all-important carshed for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz at Aarey, and this fight could be the single-biggest hurdle for the city’s longest and the only underground metro line.
“By the same standard, the entire railways will be seen as a BJP baby, which means projects under the railways, which require robust participation by the BMC for encroachment removal, securing underground water and sewerage utilities and the like, could get in the crosshairs of Shiv Sena,” said an official.
Speaking to DNA, Subodh Jain, former General Manager of Central Railway, said a fractured mandate could hit the projects severely.
“Corporators have a connect with the people at the lowest level of political hierarchy. That also increases their nuisance value when it comes to things such as encroachment removal and land acquisition. If corporators of one party start stalling the projects of another, it will have a cascading effect and soon funds for the project, in case it involves private participation, will dry up. It can set the city back by several years,” he cautioned.
Former Chief Secretary and BMC Commissioner V Ranganathan acknowledged that the new composition of the BMC could be a tightrope walk. “Every project has obstacles in its natural course. Land acquisition, compensation, rehabilitation, even opposition are part of a project. It is for the implementing authority — that is the government — to overcome all this,” he said.
He said that while the BMC Commissioner had no right to overturn a resolution passed by the BMC House, the state government does. However, other officials said that too much interference by the state government in the workings of the BMC would only worsen the fight between the estranged allies.
The city has already seen how politically-fuelled opposition can hit projects. The 5th line between Santa Cruz and Mahim, built in May 2015 at a cost of Rs 8 crore, never got commissioned after residents of shanty towns along the Navpada cemetery in the eastern fringe of Bandra station opposed its commissioning as the line cuts off the cemetery from their settlements.
The political posturing from local leaders after the devastating fire in the Garib Nagar area of Bandra east on March 4, 2011, put paid to hopes of the railways to take back the land and use it for development purposes.
“The fight over Aarey metro carshed for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz line, the land acquisition, and far-reaching changes the coastal road would bring to areas along Haji Ali, Girgaum Chowpatty and Worli Seaface could become political flashpoints. In the long run, it could derail the projects,” said a city-based official.