Shiv Sena, BJP at loggerheads over white LED lights at Marine Drive

Still seething at the BMC allegedly being bypassed in the decision-making process for the streetlights, Aaditya Thackeray sent out tweets criticising the move; he was backed up by Uddhav yesterday, who said Sena will oppose all of state govt’s ‘anti-people’ moves

BEST’s decision of robbing gold from the Queen’s Necklace (mid-day, Jan 15) has pitted the BJP-led government against its own ally, the Shiv Sena.

A war of words on Twitter following Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray’s visit to Marine Drive on Thursday was followed by Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray declaring at an event in Shanmukhanand yesterday: “If the government, which is led by the BJP, does anything that is against the interests of the people of Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena will stand against the government first”.

Bathed in silver: White LED streetlights at Marine Drive yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble
Bathed in silver: White LED streetlights at Marine Drive yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble

After visiting Marine Drive and noticing that white LED bulbs had replaced the yellow sodium vapour ones in streetlights, Aaditya Thackeray had tweeted late on Thursday night, “Just passed Marine Drive. The white lights have stolen the Neckless of its charm. Reckless decision than Neckless.”

Clearly upset that the BJP-led government had bypassed the BMC while taking the decision on the LED lights, despite the funds coming from the civic body’s coffers, he followed this up with another tweet, which read: “The point is those who’ve taken decision of these new lights, do they love Mumbai? Respect local self-govts? Yellow lights were the charm.”

Hitting back
BJP’s Mumbai president Ashish Shelar, who had played a key role in getting the LED proposal passed, jumped into the fray and tweeted: “Change is charming. Old technology can charm once a year, new charms 364 days. Marine drive deserved the change @AUThackeray. The new charm comes with reduced electricity bills. Contract went to PSU & not pvt contractor! Public became rich. Love to Mumbai!”

Aaditya then clarified that was not against the use of LED bulbs, but wanted yellow bulbs to replace the white ones at Marine Drive to retain the old-world charm of the Queen’s Necklace.

On Aaditya’s contention that the move showed lack of respect for local self government, Shelar tweeted, “Local government is very much the decision maker. They are assisted by best practices: e-auction process to curb corruption. #LED4Mumbai”.

‘Why the rush?’
When mid-day contacted Aaditya Thackeray on the issue, he said, “I’ve raised these questions because I was shocked by the way the charm of Marine Drive has been destroyed by arbitrary decisions. I wonder if those who have taken the decision have any connect with, or love for, Mumbai. For even a single tree to be planted, the Heritage Committee has to be asked and here, the BMC’s voice and all rules have been suppressed and terms dictated from the top.”

“I wonder why the Central Govt has to look into streetlights. Marine Drive has been turned from a gold necklace to a silver one and its charm has been lost. Who took these decisions? Where were these LEDs procured from? Why should the BMC pay if it wasn’t asked? Was it through tender process? Why was the process so secret and hasty? And why only Marine Drive to kill its charm? The LEDs could have been tested anywhere else, going through the BMC.”

When we contacted Shelar, he said, “It seems that Aaditya Thackeray hasn’t been briefed properly regarding this project and why it is being implemented and that could be the reason why he reacted the way he did. The question regarding charm doesn’t arise, because it (the LED streetlights) will reduce electricity costs and also make women safer because they are brighter. The question of bypassing the BMC doesn’t arise, because the civic body has been involved in the entire process and this is a national project, which is being implemented by the BMC.”

Last word
While whom the tweet hinted at is not known yet, Shelar had also sent out another message into the twitterverse: “Having patience and adequate information is important for reacting meaningfully. Voices in a democracy become more credible when that is done.”

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