Municipal Elections in Mumbai and The infrastructure : How wud Real Estate be affected ?
All municipalities build drains and sewers. Many run crematoria, hospitals and primary schools too. But, globally, nowhere does a civic corporation also operate an intricate electricity supply system with 8,20,000 consumers, a fleet of 3,400 buses carrying 45 lakh passengers every day, Asia’s largest urban water supply network, colleges where the country’s best medical students aspire to study, a clutch of museums — there’s even a sex museum — and theme gardens, markets and heritage tours.
So, when Mumbai’s 83 lakh voters cast their vote at the February 1 elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), they’ll be deciding how the city with global dreams — poised at the brink of a critical makeover — will run in the future, what roads the investor from New York will drive his Toyota on, how much water supply will reach the international convention centre at Bandra Kurla Complex, how the tourist routes will liven up, whether Nariman Point’s influential will pay more property tax.
Projects worth Rs 3,000 crore have been submitted under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission by the BMC alone, apart from the Rs 1,800-crore Brihanmumbai Storm Water Drainage Project. Also, following the 944-mm deluge of July 2005, there’s a sense that the coming couple of years are crucial — Mumbai can do a Shanghai or crumble completely under its own weight.
But across party lines, all agree it’s Mumbai’s kingsize budget that makes the BMC election so vital. “The largest civic budget in India,” says Congress MP Milind Deora, readying campaign schedules for elections to 10 municipalities across Maharashtra on February 1. “So economically, that’s a huge reason.” BJP city unit leader Shaina NC agrees: “No other election is as important,” she says. “Look at its budget, it’s more than several states’ annual budgets.”
That’s old hat now. But the numbers are still incredible: For 2006-07, outlays for capital expenditure alone were over Rs 3,674 crore. Add to that the revenue account expenditure of Rs 6,190 crore and the figure creeps towards Rs 10,000 crore. (Arunachal Pradesh’s annual budget this year was Rs 1,500 crore, the other north-eastern states’ have similar budgets, Uttaranchal’s was Rs 6,000 crore.)
Append the BEST budget — the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s own transport and electricity supply undertaking — and the gross total budget outlay for 2006-07 is Rs 12,500 crore. Still, weigh it against tax contributions — Rs 58,000 crore annually — to the Centre and it’s chickenfeed, grumble industrialists and bloggers.
But contractors to corporators, everybody agrees that true to Mumbai’s nature, its civic body means big business. “Though it should not happen,” says senior Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi, “when corruption is rampant, people want to become BMC corporators for the money they can earn.”
Then there’s power, apart from revenue collection and policing, all else about governing Mumbai is left to the 134-year-old civic body, points out Parag Alavani, a lawyer, two-time BJP corporator and party leader in the BMC. “From birth certificates to death certificates, electricity supply, transport, emergency services, water supply, primary education, health services, infrastructure, every aspect of a Mumbaiite’s life is touched by the BMC,” Alavani says.
So, some combination of prosperity and power leads party activists to the BMC polls, says a Youth Congress leader, first-time BMC ticket-seeker now hoping to grow in stature within the party. After all, Joshi, a former Lok Sabha Speaker and Maharashtra chief minister before that, was once a BMC corporator and then Mumbai mayor in 1976-77.
Like Joshi, several prominent BMC corporators have made it big in state and national politics — NCP’s Chhagan Bhujbal was once mayor, so was Murli Deora, Speaker Datta Nalawade was once a BMC corporator, as were MLAs Gopal Shetty, Ashok Jadhav, Baba Siddique, etc.
The younger Deora recollects how his father, former Mumbai mayor and now Union petroleum minister would explain the significance of BMC elections. “Rubbish, I’d say,” he remembers. “Over time, I understood.” With a minister and an MP in the house, when there’s a water crisis or anxiety over a fresh crop of highrises around their Pedder Road home, the Deoras must talk to their local corporator, Congressman Gunvant Sheth.
“And, as local infrastructure issues gain prominence, people must realise that the right occasion to come out and voice their worries is the civic election,” Deora says. “This is the election that decides Mumbai