Someone should tell the Congress and its partner, the Nationalist Congress Party, that it is barking up the wrong tree.
Much of what it accuses the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine of is what it is also guilty of. The aspirants for control of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, currently the fief of the Sena-BJP combine, are running several of the nine other civic bodies for which too voting is to take place on Thursday.
So far, one has not heard a single good word about how any of these civic bodies are being run, save the self-praise by the incumbents.
Running civic bodies is the next best thing to running your own mint. There is money to be made aplenty; that is why money is being poured aplenty. Each civic body has a nexus of politicians, builders and contractors. Regardless of which party, or a combination of parties, claims victory on Friday, the trio will be in place. Here, even change is more of the same.
That is why accusations against the Shiv Sena and the BJP for being in cahoots to rob the Mumbaikar of his due does not wash. What the NCP-Congress says about them is what can be seen on a much, much larger scale because they run the entire state where civic-controlled areas are mere islands.
The Congress-NCP combine says garbage is not cleared and disposed of. Sure, it is the citizen’s right to ask that question. But are they proxies for citizens when they too run messy garbage-strewn cities elsewhere?
Sure, the municipalised mass transport bus services are in the doldrums. How is the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation being run? At least the BEST buses are clean, okay, relatively clean. Has any of the Congress or NCPwallahs used an ST bus of late? They are a risk to life and limb; both their condition and the manner in which they are run ensure that.
BEST power in south Mumbai is expensive. Sure. But is the state’s own power utility any better? They can’t even supply enough power to be entitled to be called a supplier. Erratic, as well as expensive, is the people’s verdict.
And to take the cake, there has been criticism of hospitals in Mumbai that are terrible places where the sick can only get sicker. Yes, Mumbai has its share of government-run hospices, like the King George and the JJ Group, which bear good comparison to civic-run hospitals.
Talk of potholed roads is commonplace. But, by the same logic, one should look at the three main arterial roads towards Dahisar, Mulund and Mankhurd, which are laid, relaid, repaired, potholed, repaired again and again by the Public Works Department of the state government.
The overpriced flyovers – both the contractors and the politicians laughed their way to wherever they stack their black money – are also state-owned, or owned by their undertakings, for which they charge the user a toll. They are horrors. Water stagnates on them at the top when they ought to have flown away. They are also pothole-ridden.
Oh yes, there is this lament about the city being overtaken by slums. The civic bodies have to facilitate services therein. The state government, now run by Congress-NCP, is the one which decides which slum built when should be protected. And they want to add to this size by taking the cutoff which governs the protected slums from 1995 to the year 2000. That addition is not going to be small.
Of course, though everybody privately frowns upon the slum, and, by implication, the slum dweller, all of them politically want the slums because they alone vote consistently to buy insurance from politicians. The Congress, Shiv Sena, BJP, NCP et al are all vested interests in so far as the slums are concerned.
So why this claims about one being better than the other?
After all, remember, both NCP and Shiv Sena, which fling verbal arrows at each other in Mumbai, went to bed together in Pune earlier. To keep the Congress, led by Suresh Kalmadi, out, they created the ‘Pune Pattern.’ It was warranted by power, not even ideology. And we all know what power held in civic bodies translates to: cash at a snap of a finger.
However, by no means should the Sena-BJP alliance be let off the hook for their deeds and misdeeds in running the civic body.
Politics and poll campaigns are about hiding your weaknesses and exposing rivals. In Mumbai’s instance, it is all about the kettle calling the pot black.