The BJP has lost credibility to deliver, says Milind Deora

Aastha Vijaywargiya/ Surabhi Mumbai | Updated on April 09, 2019

In an interview to BusinessLine, Milind Deora, Mumbai Congress President, said the voice of the business community in the city is not being heard in Delhi. Deora, who is contesting from Mumbai South, also said the issues in the party’s city unit have been settled. Excerpts:

How do you think the Congress will perform in Mumbai this time around?

For Mumbai, the situation is better based on the feedback from the ground. Each of the Congress candidates has a good connect with the community. Urmila is a new candidate, all the other candidates know the area well. Sanjay Nirupam has assured me that he is taking care of Urmila’s area, because it’s his old area. We have good hands on the ground. We know what we are doing, we have better connect than sitting MPs do.

Is national security as big an agenda as projected by the BJP? What do you think of their manifesto?

It is an important agenda but I don’t think people will forget the promises of employment. We shouldn’t forget that over 450 jawans died in the last five years, there’s been no response from the government in the last five years. We have failed on many fronts in national security, and today, we are trying to politicise the armed forces.

The BJP has lost credibility to deliver now. So many promises past that were made. We shouldn’t expect people to trust them now. There’s also a lot of distraction around emotive issues. When a government or a ruling party moves the debate to emotive issues, you know that they basically mucked up on the last five years. UPA never did that in 2009 or 2014.

With a few weeks left for the polls, what steps are you taking to stop infighting inthe party?

We all are working together. Every organisation has differences, that doesn’t mean people are against each other personally.

Opposition parties have taken up a number of issues, such as NaMo TV, with the Election Commission. Your views?

There have been some accusations made by my party. We have faith in the EC and the democratic process. If parties have these concerns, EC has to work doubly hard to assuage those concerns.

How do you plan to represent a population as diverse as the Mumbai South constituency?

I am there for everyone. Every community from the Mahrasthrian girni kamgaar to a Gujarati stock broker, we cover it all, we work for all, we represent all of them and that to me is the biggest strength in South Mumbai. There are many issues from local, national, regional. Today, let’s say the business community, traders, businessmen, their voice is not being heard by Delhi, they are getting suppressed, they are afraid to speak on phones, they talk on Whatsapp. Freedom of speech is being curtailed because they don’t have a good representative in Delhi. I am explaining to people that please vote for good candidates.

Infrastructure continues to be the biggest issue in the country’s financial capital Mumbai…

It’s a shame and people often misunderstand and don’t realise that the Shiv Sena-BJP have been in power for more than 30 years at the BMC, which is now more like Bombay or Bharat’s Most Corrupt. It’s very unfortunate. They have failed. We need metros and infrastructure in Mumbai but how do you do it without wastage of taxpayers’ resources? The breakdown of governance is very serious. In the recent bridge collapse, the Mayor of Mumbai didn’t even know it it was a BMC bridge or some other bridge.

How will the Congress fund programmes like NYAY?

I think what’s very clear is that many other inefficient schemes can be subsumed into NYAY and NYAY can become a nodal scheme which can eliminate many inefficient schemes. And in doing so you will in fact reduce the burden on the exchequer and not increase it, on the tax payer. Just like Aadhaar was a technological tool to reduce the burden on the taxpayer, and has in fact improved the fiscal deficit. Similarly, NYAY can be an important nodal scheme to prevent many ineffective schemes and do away with them.

You have promised 500 sq ft home to the slum residents but they say these are only promises...

It depends from slum to slum. In some places it may not be possible because of CRZ or other issues, but in general if you are telling me our slum project is not happening in the city, they are happening, there are redevelopment happening in many parts of the city. So, those that are possible to happen legally, we would want to assure them a home of 500 sq ft.

You have said Shiv Sena is your main opponent in this elections. Why hasn’t Congress struck an alliance ?

We have tried to take everyone along but some people are held bent on fighting on their own, and I’m not sure what their agenda is. Some of them might be weak teams of the opposition.

What is your stance on the Coastal Road Project?

I believe it’s good to have development but not in a bulldozing kind of manner. A big project like this, you need to think it through, talk to people, allay fears. The bottom line is who is implementing the project, the BMC, does the common citizen have faith in the BMC? No. If they can’t guarantee a safe foot over bridge, can you trust them with the coastal road project!

Some of the slum residents till now don’t have their ration cards linked to Aadhaar and are facing problems and are dependent on private shops. What would you like to say about that?

The government has to ensure the Supreme Court verdict that privacy is a fundamental right in letter and spirit and as long as people’s privacy is protected I don’t see anything wrong in it. Not specifically to ration cards, but in general linking Aadhaar provided that it’s not entering people’s privacy. The debate on Aadhaar is about privacy.

Recently, you commented about Shiv Sena cooking meat in front of a Jain temple, and asked people to show Shiv Sena the right way through their votes. Do you think religion is the right way to gain vote?

Aren’t people doing that already. I am not putting up religion, I was responding to a statement made by somebody who spoke before me and said that. I think that’s something unfortunate, parties that discriminate over religion. I am not telling people to discriminate, I am saying people who discriminate on religion should be taught a lesson and they as parties do discriminate on religion. Parties have policies towards people of different religion and that’s not right. So I say all people should teach them a lesson, anyone who believes that discrimination against religion is bad should stand up and teach these people a lesson.

You have been active in developing youth. One message you would like to give to the young generation.

Go out and vote, be informed and vote for good candidates who represent clean politics, that’s very important.

Published on April 09, 2019

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