Tuesday, October 6, 2009

'People vote for ability, not lineage'

Just seeing the sheer adulation with which hundreds of people greet him when he arrives at his White House office, is indication enough of his popularity - and connection - with the masses. Not for nothing, the man has made it to the record books for his landslide victory margins in past Assembly polls. Even as he gears up for another term as MLA - and who knows, the state's deputy chief minister's chair - Ganesh Naik shares his thoughts in this exclusive interview.

Q. Dynastic politics - that's the word on everyone's mouth. What's your reaction?
A. When Lala Amarnath was the Indian captain and both his sons played for the country, it was not because they were brothers, but because they were players of caliber. And same is the case with the Pathan brothers in today's Indian team. Or take the Mangeshkar family. Can we say only Lata Mangeshkar will be allowed to sing and others in the family cannot sing? And who are these handful of people to talk about dynastic politics, when lakhs of voters are making the choice on the basis of the person's ability and not his lineage? Let the people of Navi Mumbai decide whether the Naiks are capable of serving them or not. Having said that, both my sons, Sanjeev and Sandeep, have an impeccable track record in public life, serving the people of this city and growing from the grassroot level.
Q. You have been the satellite city's first - and only - tall leader. Does that put more pressure on you to take up the cause of Navi Mumbai at the state-level?
A. Why talk about state level. Now, Navi Mumbai has its MP (son Sanjeev Naik), who is taking up its cause at the national level. Our MP is part of the 20-member Urban Development Committee and we expect him to get funds allotted for development of the satellite city. Similarly, we will do whatever it takes at the state level or the civic level to ensure overall development and progress of Navi Mumbai.
Q. Not counting Chhagan Bhujbal, you are probably the only person who has quit the Shiv Sena and grown from strength to strength. The Sena must surely be regretting losing you.
A. First of all, Bhujbalsaab is a senior leader of our party and I can't even be talked about in the same breath. What is more important is that I have been able to do my duties that I set out to do in public life. The corporation is in NCP's control, our MP is from NCP and if both the MLAs are also from NCP, we will be able to work for the city without any hindrance from any quarter.
Q. Your vision for Sanjeev Naik was to send him to the Parliament, which you have. What's your vision for Sandeep Naik?
A. It's not my vision; but our leader Pawarsaab's vision. He is intelligent enough to understand that if we win both the seats in Navi Mumbai, it will be a major boost for the party's growth in the metropolis in the years to come. He has considered many factors before entrusting us with the responsibility of contesting both the seats.
As far as my individual plans are concerned, I plan to retire from active politics in the next ten years and turn to social activity in a worker's role, leaving the electoral politics to the two brothers. And I think ten years is enough time to implement all the plans that I have envisioned for the satellite city of Navi Mumbai.
Q. One of your key pre-election achievements was securing the 2.5 FSI for redevelopment of dilapidated (like JN1) buildings. When will the work actually start?
A. I expect the work to commence by April 2010. It's a huge project, and the work will take place in phases, one node and one sector at a time. It's not only about increasing the FSI; the civic infrastructure will also have to be upgraded, be it water supply, drainage or access roads. The village areas will be systematically developed and aesthetically merged with the subsequently built urban spaces, lending an uniform look to the planned city.
Q. Talking about villages, isn't the villagers-versus-outsiders issue a ticking social time bomb, waiting to erupt sooner or later?
A. This entire villagers-versus-outsiders concept has been created by interested, divisive factions in the city. I was really upset during the Ghansoli riots and took lot of pains to make people realize that there will be no development if we fight with each other. Neither can the new residents flourish without integrating the original inhabitants, nor can the natives prosper without openly accepting the newcomers to the city. But overall, not only are villagers and outsiders co-existing peacefully, but also people from all communities and religions are living happily, without any fear, in Navi Mumbai.
Q. How do you feel when people like Namdeo Bhagat who have literally grown in front of you are contesting against you today?
A. We are living in a democracy; every man has a right to contest in the election. And let the people decide whom they want as their representative. Having said that, these bunch of Congressmen are not real rebels, but mere opportunists. And the people of Navi Mumbai are wise enough to know that they are neither fighting for the people, nor for the party, but just fending for themselves.
Q. And do you have anything to say about BJP's candidate Suresh Haware?
A. I have heard from people that Suresh Haware is staying in Navi Mumbai for the past 20 years, but we have come to know about his existence only in the past 3-4 months. Now, suddenly he has made up his mind to serve the people of this city and he is all over the place.
Q. But doesn't it bother you when these new comers make unrealistic promises to woo the voters?
A. (Smiles). Unfortunately for them, we have done such fantastic work for this city on every front - be it water supply, drainage system, connectivity, transportation, roads, low rates of taxes and high quality of life - that it takes absolutely unrealistic promises for them to even knock on the doors of the voters. And the voters know that. Will they trust someone who has delivered on every count for the past twenty years, or will they hand over their fate to someone who makes up his mind to serve people overnight.
DNA news

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