he Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) ransacked the office of Public Works Department (PWD) in Navi Mumbai’s Turbhe area on Monday and a group of party workers, protesting against the potholes and poor conditions of roads, dug up several places outside the Mantralaya in south Mumbai the next day. The protest might be for the right reason but by damaging public properties they are wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned money. MNS always go violent while protesting, perhaps this is the reason many leaders of the party have disowned them and are rejoining Shiv Sena. A group of MNS workers arrived near Mantralaya, equipped with spades and started digging up the footpath adjacent to the state secretariat. While some party workers were shouting slogans, many of them were busy in digging job. No one was there to stop them. They threw the debris on the main road. A Marine Drive police station patrol van, which was passing by, swung into action and detained eight of the accused while several others managed to flee. This is the typical trend followed by this party, they cowardly attack anything to everything but when get countered with police, they keep hiding their faces. The accused were brought to the police station and booked for damaging the public property and unlawful assembly.
Earlier this week, MNS workers were seen smashing chairs, computers, and furniture of the PWD office. The outrage came after five persons lost their lives in various parts of Mumbai due to potholes on roads.
There were other political parties who agitated against potholes but their way of agitation was peaceful. Congress workers from Mumbai launched a campaign called “Aao potholes giney,” where they counted and filled potholes in Bandra. This campaign came after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis claimed that the number of potholes in Mumbai roads have reduced by a considerable amount. There are estimated 20,000 potholes that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) claimed in front of the Bombay High Court. Pothole-free Mumbai was Devendra’s election promise, but he failed to stand by his words. Potholes are one of the biggest issues witnessed in Mumbai and instead of fixing them, the ruling Shiv Sena and BJP are fighting over which potholes belongs to whom! The city’s Mayor has announced that Mumbai will be pothole-free in the next 15 days, but that never happened. Mumbai has 2,000 km of road; out of which, 1,874 km are maintained by BMC, while the remaining 126 km are maintained by various agencies of the state government. Now the state government has sent a proposal saying that it will hand over its roads to the BMC, but the proposal is stuck over that will lay claim to the advertising revenue from hoardings.
Potholes are a problem for Mumbai every year, but this year is unique. The city is already in election mode, ahead of the 2019 polls. Mumbai police (that comes under Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis) recently set up a SIT to probe the road scam worth Rs 352 crore. The SIT has so far arrested 24 persons including auditors and engineers. This has led to protests by the BMC engineers, further delaying the fixing of potholes. Barring a short gap of three years, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine has been ruling Mumbai for the last 31 years. As a result, ties between those in power and contractors have grown stronger. This leads to corruption, which leads to substandard and poorly maintained roads. There are three types of roads in Mumbai. The first kind is the original black roads, which are made of asphalt. Then, Assistant Commissioner RA Rajeev thought paver blocks should replace asphalt. And now, Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray wants all roads to be concretised. Nearly half of the city’s roads are now made of concrete. They are pothole-free. Although it is expensive, one wonders what stopped the richest municipal corporation (with a budget of a whopping Rs 37,000 crore!) from building concrete roads across the city! If there is no pothole in Mumbai there won’t be boiling politics. Muslims, slums, potholes, Hindu, garbage piles, to water, here everything is a political subject. If this issue gets resolved, politicians will really have no subject to attack each other.
Meanwhile, the MNS is losing its leaders due to their violent approach. Its leader Shishir Shinde joined Shiv Sena. Shinde, who started his political career with the Sena, moved out with Raj expecting some miracles from him. The 64-year-old politician shot to fame in 1991 after he and a group of Shiv Sena workers allegedly vandalised Wankhede Stadium to disrupt a cricket match between India and Pakistan. In 2014 Pravin Darekar and Ram Kadam had quit MNS to join BJP. Explaining their decision to divisional commissioner, six corporators who have joined Shiv Sena blamed Raj Thackeray and said they were not sure of their future in the party. The six MNS corporators, who joined rival party Shiv Sena dealing a huge blow to their former party, have now claimed that they chose to quit as they were disillusioned with Raj Thackeray’s violent protests and disruptive politics.
While many leaders have quit the MNS recently, this is the first time that anyone has directly pointed a finger at the MNS chief and his policies. This shows that the party organisation has crumbled. MNS needs to come up with solid strategies and a strongest vision for Maharashtra; if this time they fail, they would fade away forever.
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