Under pressure, Housing Minister Prakash Mehta says there was no plan to amend the Rent Control Act, as the government had rejected it when it was suggested in the draft housing policy in June 2015
Two weeks after he was quoted widely in the media as saying the government is amending the Rent Control Act spreading panic among nearly 3 lakh people, who feared that they will be forced to pay higher rents, Housing Minister Prakash Mehta yesterday backtracked, saying there was no such plan.
The announcement comes after mid-day’s high-impact coverage, where all political parties rallied to voice their opposition and residents spoke out about how they would be affected.
The decision is also the eighth instance when someone from the government has mooted a proposal, and the chief minister had to step in to scrap it or order a review.
Housing Minister Prakash Mehta
The government announcement on the rent Act, interestingly, came via the BJP, with the party claiming that there is no such proposal of amending the Act. The housing minister, who was quiet all this while, on Thursday claimed that there was no such proposal.
At Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) on Thursday, Prakash Mehta told reporters, “There is no question of amending the Rent Control Act and there was no such proposal by the state government in the context. The suggestion to amend the Rent Control Act was present in the draft housing policy, in which we had made clear at that time (June 2015) that amending the Rent Control Act is not a viable option for the state.”
On the Centre’s policy Mehta said, “We have made it clear to the Centre that adopting its Model Tenancy Act with the state Rent Control Act will not be possible in a city like Mumbai, considering the geographical and demographic housing development.”
Amendment or rumour
Viren Shah, head of Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association, had claimed that he had gathered from newspapers that the government was going to amend the rent Act, and said that on January 24 Mangal Prabhat Lodha had said that it was a serious issue, as there was a proposal. However, on this, Lodha, BJP MLA from Malabar Hill, said, “I don’t lie. There was a proposal by the central government, and it was brought in last June, and the state government has rejected it; because of this the issue again came up in January. But the decision has been taken and it cannot be implemented in Maharashtra.”
Raj Purohit, the BJP MLA from Colaba, claimed that it was all a rumour and hence the chief minister and the housing minister gave a clarification. “The CM met us along with Prakash Mehta, and he (CM) categorically mentioned that there will be no amendment in the Rent Control Act,” said Purohit.
Shah said that now he feels that the government has backtracked seeing the matter would affect it in the 2017 BMC polls. “Lodha told us that it was a serious proposal, but now seeing Sena and Congress aggressively opposing it, the government must have taken a u-turn on the issue.”
According to BJP sources, the party realised a bit late that the government was losing a major vote bank by remaining quiet, and the Sena and Congress were taking up the matter too aggressively. “To be honest, we were losing the battle and we had to tell the CM to issue a statement, and hence on Thursday he said there is no plan of amending the rent Act. We have to go to voters in 2017, and if this continues the Sena would have gained,” said the MLA from BJP. The matter had gone so out of hand for the BJP that even state president Raosaheb Danve had to come in. He said, “We had discussed the same issue nearly 6 months ago, and then again we discussed it with the CM, and he said the government has no plans of amending the rent act.”
The Sena and Congress did not waste time to take credit, as South Mumbai means a lot of votes during the BMC election and no one wants to lose them.
Pandurang Sakpal, Vibhag Pramukh of South Mumbai said, “After the Shiv Sena carried out a signature campaign and protested on the roads, the chief minister withdrew the amendment.”
Milind Deora, former South Mumbai MP, said, “We have decided to cancel the morcha on Sunday but will continue the agitation and awareness programme through karyakartas against the model rent Act and implementation of ownership scheme. Maharashtra government’s intent is highly suspicious. The solution to tenant vs builder dispute is rejection of the Centre’s Draft Model Tenancy Act & tenant ownership.”
NCP leader Sachin Ahir claimed that it was due to his party that the government took away the amendment.