Mumbai: New BMC chief Ajoy Mehta is a tough taskmaster

Apr 28, 2015, 12:17 IST | Dharmendra Jore

Senior bureaucrat was instrumental in enforcing power reforms in the state despite strong political opposition; he is known for his no-nonsense style of functioning

Senior IAS officer Ajoy Mehta has taken charge as the new commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), replacing Sitaram Kunte, whose term was to end on April 30.

Ajoy Mehta (left) takes over the reins from outgoing civic chief Sitaram Kunte
Ajoy Mehta (left) takes over the reins from outgoing civic chief Sitaram Kunte

When Mehta joined the state’s power generation company almost a decade ago and later took charge of its power distribution arm, Maharashtra’s electricity crisis was at its peak. The challenges he has faced over the past many years have tested his resolve to work against all odds, especially against growing political interference.

When Mehta was shifted to the environment department in January this year, after spending six years in Mahavitaran, the country’s biggest power distribution agency, he had been able to achieve many reforms that are now followed by various states on the instructions of the Union power ministry.

A taskmaster, Mehta is expected to carry his no-nonsense working style to his new workplace, the BMC. He took over the reins from Sitaram Kunte, one batch junior (1983) to him in the Indian Administrative Service, on Monday afternoon.

Kunte goes out in the backdrop of the city’s controversial development plan (DP), which he was asked to correct by CM Devendra Fadnavis last week. Kunte’s transfer is being blamed on a flawed DP, which he has been defending like his own creation.

But the fact remains that his transfer was due as his three-year tenure in BMC would have ended on April 30. Like a good student (of his new work profile), Mehta refused to talk on the much-discussed DP imbroglio. He said after taking charge, “It will be too early for me to talk on the subject now.

But I expect Mumbaikars to cooperate in my endeavour of working for bettering the city.” Mehta’s transfer to BMC has also negated the notion that Fadnavis was not happy with his performance in Mahavitaran.

Mehta doubled up as the state’s energy secretary when the incumbent was indisposed for many months, which gave him access to the power generation, transmission and holding company (MSEB), which controlled all three arms of electricity management.

But now, it is believed that Fadnavis has tasked Mehta with the even tougher task of leading the BMC ahead of the 2017 civic polls. By virtue of the powers vested in him, the civic commissioner gets the right to overrule the elected representatives in the BMC.

If the civic commissioner decides to rule with an iron glove, he can change the city forever and improve lives of its denizens. mid-day has learned from people close to Fadnavis that the CM has given Mehta a free hand to force the Shiv Sena-led house to mend its ways.

Mehta’s qualifications as a bachelor of technology (civil engineering), a law graduate and masters in business management, are expected to come in handy for dealing with the city’s grave issues and erring BMC officials. During his reign, the city may expect better infrastructure in the coming years.

Never bowed down
Mehta is known for taking on politicians he did not allow political interference to change his decision of linking power cuts with recovery of revenue in regions where consumers do not pay their monthly bills. His face-offs over this issue with senior ministers at many Cabinet meetings, both in the Congress-NCP regime and the BJP-Sena government, stand testimony to his strong will.

He has been confronted, at times insulted, by ministers, who were only keen to please defaulters rather than ensuring the good financial health of Mahavitaran. We are told that Mehta is equally prepared to take on people in BMC’s political and administrative wings, for whom their vested interests remain a top priority.

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