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BJP-Shiv Sena’s BMC politics plays out in state assembly

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-03-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators on Tuesday demanded an inquiry into alleged corruption in road contracts awarded by the Shiv Sena-controlled Mumbai municipal corporation in 2016-17—an extension of the political battle between the two parties in the city.

Ranjit Patil, minister of state for urban development, spurned the demand for a special investigation team to carry out the inquiry. He told the assembly that the road contracts would be probed if the committee set up by the state government to study these works made such a recommendation in its report.

The issue was raised by legislator and BJP’s Mumbai unit president Ashish Shelar who, among other BJP leaders, ran the BJP’s campaign in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election last month on the plank of corruption.

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Shiv Sena legislator Sada Sarwankar countered Shelar and other BJP members, reminding them that the BJP corporators were part of the standing committee of BMC which had cleared these contracts.

“Did the BJP’s standing committee members raise any objection when these contracts were cleared,” Sarwankar asked.

In closely fought elections to the BMC last month, the Shiv Sena won two more seats than the BJP, but couldn’t manage a majority in the 227-member corporation.

Last week, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the BJP would neither contest mayoral polls in the BMC nor would it be a part of the civic administration. Fadnavis, however, added that the BJP corporators at BMC would serve as watchdogs of transparency in civic governance.

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The chief minister also announced appointment of a deputy Lokayukta (anti-corruption ombudsman) to the BMC, a decision which was later extended to other civic bodies and zilla parishads after Shiv Sena demanded it.

The state government has also decided to appoint a committee of retired Indian Administrative Service officers to study various aspects of BMC’s administration and suggests ways to improve transparency.

All these measures announced by Fadnavis are being seen by the Shiv Sena and political observers as an attempt by the BJP to checkmate Shiv Sena and keep it confined to Mumbai.

“They are throwing a large net of surveillance over the BMC,” said a senior Sena leader and minister in the Fadnavis government, requesting anonymity.

The demand made by the BJP legislators on Tuesday for a SIT probe was a clear indication that the decision to stay out of power at BMC is a BJP ploy to occupy the opposition space in Mumbai and keep Shiv Sena in check.

“The demand for SIT inquiry into BMC’s road contracts is part of the plan to paint Sena as a corrupt party which has milked the BMC for years,” a BJP legislator said, requesting anonymity.

Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, leader of the opposition, said the government should appoint a SIT to show that its commitment to transparency was not merely lip service.

“The chief minister has been talking about transparency. He should demonstrate it by ordering a transparent probe by SIT under the Commission of Inquiry Act,” Vikhe-Patil said.

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