Over the next two months, don’t be surprised if Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan passes key policy decisions on urban development at a speed uncharacteristic to the Congress-NCP. It’s just the coalition clutching at straws before the assembly elections in October.
After a humiliating defeat in the recent elections, the embattled Congress-NCP is looking to exploit the two-month window before the next code of conduct is enforced for assembly elections. Sources admitted that the Congress-NCP is trying to save face by pushing decisions on housing and urban development. The assembly polls are scheduled in October, but its code of conduct will come in place 45 days in advance.
On Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s orders, the Urban Development department is frantically working on urban projects to woo disgruntled voters. FILE PHOTO
Speeding up the ‘Vision’
For starters, the Urban Development (UD) department is in a tearing hurry to complete the Vision 2020 document for Mumbai, Thane and urban areas. The proposal has been gathering dust since 2009. The government had appointed the private firm, Accenture, but the contract fell through later. Now, the UD is burning the midnight oil to complete the document in next two months. “This is our top priority right now,” said a senior official.
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On Tuesday, the UD department has called a meeting of all corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) to emphasise on better efficiency. The department will pull up the BMC, for once again missing the deadline to complete work at pumping stations at Love Grove, Gujdurbund and Mumbai Port Trust (BPT). “We discussed substantial changes to the Development Control Rules with Chavan and all we need now is his approval,” said another official.
Changes to FSI rules
The government will also push municipal corporations for changes in norms, especially towards anti-poverty initiatives, such as construction of night shelters and rehabilitation of hawkers. Key changes to the DCR, such as extension of Floor Space Index (FSI) for specific schemes, including the one approved for special townships prior to general elections, may also be carried out soon, sources said.
The issue of Maratha reservation might pick up momentum, too, added sources, as will plans of changes in housing schemes such as those related to MHADA colonies. “These changes may not be enough to save the Democratic Front government another embarrassment, but could certainly help save us face for the assembly polls,” said a senior Congress minister reeling from the “shocking” Lok Sabha results.
‘These are political tactics’
However, not everyone is hopeful that the policy changes will help. “Some Mumbai MLAs came to me and wanted immediate approval of policies. The coalition must not expect speedy approvals for the same files it dragged its feet on for years,” said a senior bureaucrat in the Urban Development department.
Surendra Jondhale, professor political science, Mumbai University feels that these decisions, though favourable, must be seen in the right context. “There is nothing wrong in pushing for reforms. But one cannot forget that the same government delayed these important projects for years. This is just their way to gain some popular favour. Whatever this government pushes for now must be seen in that context,” he said.
Newly-elected BJP MP, Gopal Shetty, too, dubbed the move as a political tactic. “It must be done keeping public interest and the consensus of the opposition in mind,” he said.