Shiv Sena, BJP try to outdo each other with sops for Mumbaikars

Mumbai, Jan 19 (IANS) As the battle for the upcoming civic elections hots up, ruling alliance partners Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are trying to upstage each other by announcing sops for Mumbaikars.

Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray revealed a wide-ranging free health cover — to be named after Shiv Sena founder, the late Bal Thackeray — for all citizens not covered under any government scheme.

He also unveiled plans for major concessions in property tax rates, one of the cash-cows of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

While the party will scrap property taxes for homes measuring 500 sq.ft. or a regular one bedroom-hall-kitchen flat, there will be concessions for houses measuring 500-700 sq.ft., or a regular two BHK flat, Thackeray said.

Additionally, housing societies which are implementing rain water harvesting (RWH) scheme shall get further discounts in property tax, he said.

With an earning of around Rs 10,000 crore, property tax forms a significant chunk of the revenue of the India’s biggest and richest civic body.

BJP city chief Ashish Shelar countered by making his own set of announcements and said the proposal to discontinue property tax for 500 sq.ft. homes was also proposed by a BJP legislator to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Shelar promised that Mumbaikars would be exempt from coughing out the 13 per cent Road Tax until all city roads were made smooth and pothole-free. The BMC rakes in over Rs 600 crore annually on this count alone.

Assuring scrapping of water cess until every Mumbai gets round-the-clock water supply, Shelar wondered that with such a huge annual budget and deposits, what has the Shiv Sena done for the city all these years.

On his part, Thackeray assured that the sops would not entail any additional tax burden.

“The BMC has an annual budget of Rs 37,000 crore and deposits of around Rs 53,000 crore. It is financially capable of bearing these expenses for the next five years, 2017-2022,” he said.

Taking a potshot at the BJP, he said that “the party would fulfil its promises on returning to power and it would not be a ‘jumla’ like the ‘Achhe Din’ poll promise”.

Interestingly, the separate announcements to lure the voters came even as the two allies in the civic body, Maharashtra and the Centre, have locked horns to share the 227 seats for the February 21 BMC elections.