Votebank politics places Mumbra on shaky ground

Jun 25, 2013, 06:46 IST | Varun Singh

Shiv Sena leaders don't want Mumbra residents relocated to Thane as this may alter the demographics of the district, affecting their political fortunes

Politics is a high-stakes game in which netas always stick to preserving their vote banks.To appease and please their perceived vote bank, representatives of the Shiv Sena have in recent days made twists and turns with their statements on the building collapses in Mumbra.

Remains of what used to be a seven-storeyed Lucky Compound building that collapsed on April 4. File pic

After a building keeled over on April 4 claiming 74 lives, and another one came down on Friday killing 10, Shiv Sena leaders from Thane including the party’s district head Eknath Shinde had told MiD DAY that his party’s primary demand was that residents of Mumbra should be accommodated in MMRDA’s rental homes in Thane, and only then should the Mumbra buildings be vacated.

The MMRDA readily handed over the 1,400-1,500 dwellings available in Thane’s Vartak Nagar area. But the same day, while Shinde was busy putting his party’s stand across, his colleague and leader of the house in Thane Municipal Corporation Naresh Mhaske mooted a proposal in the group leaders’ meeting. He advocated that the Mumbra residents be accommodated somewhere in their own neighbourhood and not in Thane, and the Thane homes be used to relocate residents of illegal buildings in that area.

While Mhaske’s bid was approved in the group leaders’ meeting, it has now raised a controversy. The leader himself claims that his proposal is in good faith and people should refrain from construing it as playing communal politics. But the abrupt change in the party’s stance has raised many questions.

The bottom line is Mumbra that is largely peopled by members of a minority community, whereas Thane has been a strong majority belt and a bastion of the saffron party for years. A principal evidence of this is that Shiv Sena has held on to the reins of TMC for the last 15 years. However, the party has no major base in Mumbra and the minority turf of Kalwa too. The change in demographics engendered by shifting of the Mumbra population to Thane, would affect Sena’s political fortunes.

Nearly 90 per cent buildings in Mumbra are unauthorised. In an earlier interview with MiD DAY, Thane’s municipal commissioner RA Rajeev had said, “Mumbra is historically illegal. And because of the socio-religious factors involved it becomes difficult for the corporation to carry out evacuation and demolition work properly.”

'My proposal has nothing to do with religion'

Why did you take such a communally sensitive decision?
My proposal has nothing to do with anyone’s religion. I suggested that Mumbra residents be shifted to the 400 homes of the corporation available within Mumbra’s Kausa area. That’s because now schools have started and it isn’t advisable to shift kids in the middle of an academic year.”

So who should be given the 1,400 homes of MMRDA in Thane?
“We have many people living in illegal buildings here who should be moved to these homes. Locals should be accommodated in areas that are in their neighbourhood.”

But senior leaders of your party had suggested that they want residents of Mumbra to be accommodated in the MMRDA rental homes. Then why this sudden change in stance?
“I had proposed this in the group leaders’ meeting on Friday, where politicos representing every group were present and the suggestion was unanimously approved. Some people now are trying to lend this a communal colour. But my proposal was based on merit and it was for the betterment of residents of Mumbra and Thane.”

Naresh Mhaske, leader of the house in Thane Municipal Corporation 

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