A major crisis is brewing within the city unit of Congress with several MLAs planning to resign as a mark of protest against their party government's failure to resolve the controversy over heritage buildings.
According to senior Congress legislator from Wadala Kalidas Kolambkar, "Several buildings in Dadar, Matunga and other areas have been arbitrarily included in the so-called heritage list, and now, these properties cannot be developed unless the heritage committee gives clearance. Several existing projects have been halted because of this. The redevelopment of several dilapidated buildings is on hold and there's real risk to the lives of people living in them. But, despite several representations to the government, there has been no response."
"I talked to several Congress MLAs from the city and it was decided that all of us will resign if the heritage issue is not resolved soon," he added.
Congress MLA from Chembur Chandrakant Handore is also facing a similar problem as a large number of buildings in his constituency have been included in the heritage list, and as a result, redevelopment of many has stopped. A large number of middle-class families, who vacated their flats after signing redevelopment agreements with builders, are now anxious as there is no knowing when their buildings will be redeveloped and when they will move into their new homes.
"It's ridiculous to call buildings that are not even 50 years old heritage structures. Entire neighbourhoods have been given the heritage tag..." said Rama Krishnan, a resident.
President of the Gujarati cell of city Congress Manish Shah said, "Everything old is not heritage. The BMC administration and state government need to be realistic and keep in mind the city's real interests. In the name of heritage, a brake has been put on the real estate industry, which was generating thousands of jobs, creating demand for steel, cement and other items, and giving huge revenue to the government."
"Several of our party MLAs have already impressed upon chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to not only solve the heritage issue but also scrap local body tax. I will lead a delegation of concerned party activists to the CM," he added.
Sixteen of the 34 MLAs from greater Mumbai belong to Congress. After the severe drubbing the party received in the Lok Sabha election, they want to ensure that history does not repeat itself in the assembly polls scheduled for October.
"We are fed up of requesting Chavan, who is handling the urban development portfolio, to take speedy decisions. He is yet to realise the gravity of the situation," said another Congress MLA.
It is learnt that the complaints may be sent to the Congress high command if the state government doesn't take an early decision.