Mumbai: Potholes in Mumbai are fast transforming into a political potpourri with two corporators from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) openly brandishing their hooliganism on a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief engineer, albeit all for public good.
But MNS president Raj Thackeray remains unfazed over the high-handedness by his party leaders.
"Let all engineers who are responsible for potholes resign. There are thousands of engineers who are without a job. They will get the benefit of a job in the BMC. Nobody can pressurise me," Thackeray told Firstpost in an exclusive interview at his Dadar residence Krishnakunj.
Firmly backing his corporators, Thackeray ruled out any possibility of dilution of their stand.
"I support what my corporators did. Everywhere there are potholes and nobody is bothered. If the engineers file a case against MNS corporators let them do so. But I appeal to each and every Mumbaikar and my party workers to file cases against these engineers at all the 93 police stations in 24 wards. We will show the strength of the party and once for all. The 1.40 crore Mumbaikars know who are the responsible for potholes on the roads and their health problems," he said.
Mocking the mass resignation, the MNS chief said that the engineers are merely doing stunts.
"They are employees of the BMC and not members of any political party. They should behave like employees of the BMC. As a common man and party chief, I should know that who is responsible for potholes and shoddy work on the roads. It is my right to know, who is actually responsible for potholes," he said.
Daring the engineers, the MNS president said, "If all the BMC engineers come together to show their unity, they should realise that all the Mumbaikars can come together and file cases against the BMC for potholes."
"The BMC Commissioner, four additional commissioners, 12 deputy municipality commissioners, 24 assistant commissioners and thousands of engineers are taking daily updates on the potholes. The ruling parties (Shiv Sena and BJP) and the standing committee passed the tender to get them repaired. But the contractors are doing a shoddy job and the potholes are still there. Then we have to know who is responsible for the potholes," Thackeray said.
The MNS head did not even spare the media.
"In every kilometre, you will find minimum 50 potholes and the BMC said in written statement that only 36 potholes remain. Is this a joke? And the media is asking us why we have misbehaved with BMC employee and contractors," Thackeray said.
Demanding that there should be transparency in the tendering process, he said, "Let BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta come forward and say who are responsible for potholes. He should also name those corporators and the political leaders who pressurise him to get the tenders passed. As a result, we end up having bad roads. Once and for all the truth should come out."
Seeking that the blame game should end, Thackeray said that there should be accountability for these bad roads and the engineers cannot escape from their responsibilities.
"Every year the BMC spends more than Rs 2,000 crore for concretising roads and filling potholes. Are the engineers not ashamed when their own vehicles pass over these potholes or when their parents have to travel on them? The engineers should introspect as he or she is answerable for his or her own work," the MNS chief said.
On Wednesday, BMC, chief engineer (road) Sanjay Darade was allegedly misbehaved by two MNS corporators Sandip Deshpande and Santosh Dhuri who dragged him out of his office and forced him to hold a placard taking responsibility for the potholes in the city's Dadar locality.
The incident incensed 1,200 BMC engineers who met BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta after Darade did and offered their resignation protesting the indecent behaviour. On Thursday, engineers from the civic body under the banner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Engineers Union were led by its president Sainath Rajadhyaksha, protested against the politicians after stopping their work at BMC office in Worli.
The BMC Commissioner, however, didn't accept the joint resignation letter and assured that action will be taken.
Mehta even took up the issue with Mumbai Police Commissioner Datta Padsalgikar. Following that the Shivaji Park police called Darade to record his statement and registered a FIR against Deshpande and Dhuri under Section 341 (wrongful restraint), 506 (criminal intimidation) and Section 34 (common intention) of the IPC.
The two are yet to be arrested.
Although he did not give any detail, Thackeray made it clear that post-Diwali the MNS will take up many issues.
Meanwhile, Dadar corporator Deshpande maintained a brave stand and showed little remorse for his actions.
"I am ready to face anything. I did no wrong. If the police arrest me I am not taking bail till all the potholes are filled up,"he said.
Deshpande and Dhuri met Thackeray on the course of action ahead. But for now, the law is yet to catch up with them.