Kamala Mills fire triggers political face-off; BJP and 'ally' Shiv Sena blame each other

The devastating fire at the Kamala Mills compound in Mumbai that killed 14 people, led to heated reactions in the Parliament on Friday, highlighting the rift between the two principal political players in Maharashtra, the BJP and its NDA ally, the Shiv Sena.

A war of words broke out between BJP MP from Mumbai (North East) Kirit Somaiya and Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant in the Lok Sabha over the tragic incident that occurred at 12.30 am on Friday.

The Shiv Sena MP didn’t leave an opportunity to point a finger at the BJP MP.

 Kamala Mills fire triggers political face-off; BJP and ally Shiv Sena blame each other

The fire at Kamala Mills in Mumbai. AFP

Reacting sharply to the fire incident, Kirit Somaiya during the Zero Hour said, “Madam (Speaker), I have been told that 14 people have been burnt to death due to the fire that broke out at Kamala Mills compound. According to my information, the pub-restaurant over there has no permission and is illegal. The fire at the pub in Kamala Mills compound has exposed that there are several such establishments in the compound which are illegal. There are dozens of such illegal restaurants and pubs in the compounds of Kamala Mills and adjoining Phoenix Mills, without proper safety system. I want to make a request that the Urban Development minister and Maharashtra government should initiate a special fire audit of all the outlets there. Kamala Mills and Phoenix Mills are nothing but death traps.”

The BJP MP blamed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for its persistent negligence towards having safety measures in place.

Referring to another fire incident at a snack shop in the Saki Naka area in Mumbai that killed 12 people, a visibly disturbed Somaiya said, “Hardly a fortnight ago, in another similar fire incident, 12 labourers got killed in a place which was close to my voting area. Such incidents are occurring almost daily. What is BMC and its corrupt officials doing? There is no fire audit. The permission given to the outlets are illegal. Fire safety audits of both complexes need to be conducted immediately and action should be taken against corrupt BMC officials and the owner of the restaurant. It’s due to the BMC’s negligence that common people are losing their lives.”

Traditionally, the BMC, the country’s richest municipal body has been a stronghold of Shiv Sena. However, in the last elections to the civic body, the BJP has posed a tough challenge for it.

After Somaiya’s statement, when Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan wanted to know Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant’s view on the incident, the latter remarked, “Madam, today morning I gave a notice on this issue, as this incident occurred in my constituency. It’s his (Somaiya’s) nature to interfere and it’s by force of habit that he does so (Inko to ghussne ki adaat hai aur iss aadat se majboor hain) …I’m also saying the same.”

The Speaker intervened and told Sawant that he has been allowed by the House to present his statement.

Visibly agitated, Sawant reiterated his allegation against Somaiya and told the House how the fire broke out and number of causalities that had taken place due to asphyxia. He demanded a judicial probe in the Kamala Mills fire incident in the Lok Sabha.

“Out of 14 people killed, 11 are women. This is a major fire incident and I express my sorrow. However, I want to emphasise that all the mills located in Mumbai have either commercial or residential complexes. Madam, you’ll be surprised to know who gave permission to these complexes. These hotels belong to big people and it could be his (pointing at Somaiya) friend or even mine…no one knows. This particular hotel (pub-restaurant) belongs to the son of a commissioner. During the investigation, an officer will save the accused. All these establishments should be investigated. A judicial probe must be initiated in this fire incident,” Sawant added.

After stepping out of Parliament, Somaiya told reporters, “BMC officials are responsible for the murder of people in Kamala Mills fire. This is the second such incident in two weeks. When will the BMC wake up?”

Other MPs also reacted to this incident outside the Parliament.

Jaya Bachchan, actor and Rajya Sabha Member representing Samajwadi Party said, “I have been to Kamala Mills. It’s like a bhool-bhulaiya with narrow lanes. So, obviously there has been negligence.”

Added, playback singer and BJP MP Babul Supriyo, “It’s (fire incident) a big learning experience, but it shouldn’t come with such a huge cost. So many people have lost their lives.”

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Updated Date: Dec 30, 2017 08:49:56 IST