With elections to the state legislative assembly only some five months away, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan is wooing builders in the context of complaints that many of their proposals are held up due to red tape.
Since he assumed office more than three years ago, Chavan has kept the builders at arm's distance. That the Adarsh building scam cost his predecessor Ashok Chavan his job must have weighed on his mind.
There is also a feeling in political circles that an obsession with his clean image resulted in real estate files in the urban development gathering dust.
The chief minister did make a tentative effort to open a line of communication with the developers just before the announcement of the Lok Sabha polls, but nothing significant came out of that initiative.
This time, however, Chavan wants to ensure that the matters concerning the builders' lobby are resolved and it seems he believes that the files can be cleared within the framework of the rules.
"This is a belated realisation on his part. But, we're happy that he has finally decided to talk to us," a prominent builder told dna on Monday.
Sources in the chief minister's office (CMO) disclosed that a meeting will be scheduled in the next week with the developers' umbrella body, the Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (MCHI) and its sub units.
"The correspondence between the CMO and the MCHI is on. We are looking for a date convenient to both the CM and the builders," an official said, requesting anonymity.
Besides removing the grievances of builders, the chief minister is keen to kick-start his pet scheme to build five lakh affordable housing units in the Mumbai metropolitan region. Real estate prices in the region, which includes Navi Mumbai, parts of Thane and Raigad districts, have shot up despite slackening demand. Chavan hopes to rope in builders to construct these houses.
Boman Irani, chairman and managing director of Rustomjee Group and MCHI secretary, said the organisation was looking forward to the meeting. "We hope the chief minister will iron out various tricky issues so that maximum affordable houses are constructed in the city and neighbouring areas. If he looks into these long-pending issues sincerely, there will be a big boost to the housing sector."
Manohar Shroff, general secretary of MCHI (Navi Mumbai), said past meetings with the chief minister had not yielded much. "I hope that in the next meeting several pending issues will be solved quickly. There is a need to substantially increase the supply in the housing market as this will help reduce the prices."
A Congress MLA from South Mumbai said, "The government cannot afford to continue with its casual approach towards developers and housing issues. In the Lok Sabha polls we faced a lot of heat. People are not happy with the CM's style of functioning. We need a dynamic decision-making process. We need to give a boost to schemes like cluster development in the shortest possible time. Otherwise, it will be tough going for the party in the assembly polls."
Another Congress leader said: "I'm happy the CM has realised the implications of the policy paralysis that has gripped Mantralaya. The poll prospects of the Congress and the NCP depends much on the decisions that Chavan and his team take in the coming weeks."