Almost two weeks ago, former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh’s plan to extort 100 crore rupees per month from the bars, restaurants and other establishments of Mumbai was exposed by former Mumbai Police Commissioner, Param Bir Singh. This led to a huge uproar and ultimately ended with the resignation of Deshmukh but one question that remains unanswered is why Mumbai was especially targeted by the NCP Home Minister.
One can argue that Mumbai is the richest city in the country and there might have been a directive to extort money from other cities which have not been revealed yet. These arguments might be totally or partially true. But, the NCP came out of the whole episode unscathed and it did not even bother to take the matter seriously, and that is primarily because the city of Mumbai does not have NCP’s voter base.
Out of the four parties in Maharashtra, NCP has the lowest stake in Mumbai. The party won only 9 seats in the city out of 114 in the last BMC election. Therefore, if the image of NCP in the city, as many suggest, is of a corrupt party. But it does not bother the top leadership of the party at all.
For decades, the NCP has used Mumbai as a milking cow because it does not have anything to lose in the city. The kind of extortion business NCP Home Minister Anil Deshmukh was running in Mumbai would never be run in Pune or Amravati because Western Maharashtra and Marathwada are the bastions of the Sharad Pawar led party.
The financial capital of India accounts for almost 6 per cent of the country’s GDP, 30 per cent of Income-tax collections, 20 per cent of excise collections, 60 per cent of customs duties, and 4,00,000 crore rupees of corporate tax collections. In FY19, the total tax collection from Mumbai was 3.52 lakh crore rupees while the collection from Delhi was 1.60 lakh crore rupees, less than half of Mumbai. If Mumbai is lost, Maharashtra will be like a toothless tiger.
But despite such heavy contribution of Mumbai to Maharashtra’s public income, the city gets very little (read nothing) in return. Today, cities like Pune, Amravati, and Nashik have better infrastructure than Mumbai. The city got its first metro line in 2014, almost a decade and a half after Delhi.
Ajit Pawar, the Finance Minister of Maharashtra, calls the Mumbai-Ahemdabad Bullet train an unnecessary and costly project because it does not bother his political constituency. For decades, the Congress and NCP politicians from other regions of Maharashtra spent all the public money to their respective constituencies for irrigation projects, infrastructure projects, microlending (all this all contributes to their own pockets), and building out bankrupt sugar mills and cooperative banks with the Mumbai taxpayers’ money.
The city of Mumbai got step-motherly treatment from NCP and Congress because it is politically not important to these parties. In the five years of the BJP-Shiv Sena government, Mumbai was awarded many big-time infrastructure and investment projects but many of them were put to a halt after the tri-party alliance came to power and the duo of Congress-NCP allegedly started the same game that they were playing for decades. Shiv Sena is all set to lose political capital for the CM chair to Uddhav Thackeray. However, the ultimate loser in all this is the city of Mumbai as Mumbaikars have been kept at the margins just because they are politically not relevant to parties like the NCP.