BJP Belapur MLA Manda Mhatre has earned the reputation of being a fearless, aggressive and courageous fighter. She started as corporator in Navi Mumbai and went on to make a mark as women & child welfare committee chairperson in NMMC. She went on to work for women all over Maharashtra as NCP Women President of the state and then served in legislative council as MLC. The turning point of her political journey was assembly elections of 2014 when she earned the title of being the giant killer who defeated three times Thane Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik.
NMTV Managing Editor Zeba Warsia caught up with the face of BJP in Navi Mumbai : BJP Belapur MLA Manda Mhatre.
Thank you for talking to us. Let’s begin with the general election 2014. At that time you defeated a three time sitting guardian minister. How was the feeling of the moment when you won such a crucial election?
Since 25 years I am into social and political life. As everyone knows I was in NCP. I had been the Maharashtra State Women President of NCP too. I was the one who had built NCP grass root up in Navi Mumbai. I believed that I should have been given a party candidature on merit. But I don’t think the leader of NCP believed so. I was denied for an assembly ticket twice, in 2004 and 2009. I wasn’t even given any position in the party and I felt that my voice was ignored. I waited patiently for justice from NCP and in 2014, I was determined to contest the assembly elections. I had confidence on the back of the work I had done in Navi Mumbai that I deserved it. At that time, both Shiv Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackrey ji and Hon’ CM Devendra Fadnavis ji from BJP were in touch with me. But since I had started a dialogue with BJP first, I joined BJP, fought against NCP and won. I am happy as well as grateful to the people who showed their faith in me and appreciated my hard work, sincerity and honesty. I am also thankful to your channel that had helped me a lot that time to propagate my work, my wish and my strength to people. Like you asked, the moment of the victory made me realize that with the win, came a greater sense of responsibility towards delivering my duty as a MLA with complete accountability. For the last four years I am trying me best to be an accountable and performing MLA of Belapur. I knew I would win, so I wasn’t so I wasn’t exactly happy for the victory. But I was happy as people showed trust on me, on my work and my ability proving all assumptions of opponents about me wrong.
Your journey since 25 years in public life, politics and social work, had been full of struggle and challenges. There were times we saw how you fought against injustice out in the open with no fear. After it all, when you won the election, you were given the title of “BJP’s Giant Killer”. How significant was this win?
Not just for me, but in the state of Maharashtra, the win was a historic one. I say this humbly that after the election, when I went to attend the first party meeting, Hon’ CM Devendra Fadnavis ji greeted me and said “Here is our giant killer.” It felt very good to hear it from him. Now also whenever I assert, I want to speak on any issue or I want to discuss something I am heard with respect. In a way the title and the win itself has strengthened my position to work for the people. But despite the victory, I know, no matter how big the victory is, how big the title is, I have to keep my feet on ground, firm and rooted.
Your win, like many others in that election is often said to be credit to the Modi wave?
That’s a very good question and thank you for asking it. Because I took have always heard this and finally can now speak my mind about this. No one can ever deny the fact that there was a strong Modi wave at that time. It also helped me sailed through a lot towards my victory. But I question those, even your channel, if my win was only because of Modi wave then why was the wave only in Belapur and not Airoli. In Airoli a NCP MLA won and in Belapur a three times Minister lost to me? If Modi wave was the only reason of victory, the in Airoli also BJP candidate should have won, isn’t it? But it didn’t happen that way. I stand by the fact that Modi wave was instrumental in my victory but my work gave me the final edge to win.
Another allegation is that your victory could not translate into strengthening BJP’s base in Navi Mumbai. In NMMC election, the performance of BJP was termed poor.
BJP had no base in Navi Mumbai. It had only one corporator. NMMC elections happened within 6 months of assembly election. I had little time to work on the elections and party itself. The fact that around ten BJP candidates lost with less than 100 votes in NMMC elections, speaks in volumes that we had become a larger party on ground. We are still working on this. Let me tell you something. Despite all recent protest, BJP won at Sangli and Jalgaon. This is because people have faith in the leaderships of our Hon’ Prime Minister Narendra Modiji and and our CM Devendra Fadavnis Sahab. In Navi Mumbai, too you will see the growing power of BJP. Recently I had done a survey and found 16500 bogus votes in Belapur. Everyone knows our opponents have been winning on bogus votes. This is just the beginning. We have planted the seed. Give us some time. Our efforts and hard work will bear fruit. Citizens are realizing that BJP should come to power in NMMC. I am confident we will win the next NMMC elections.
If you had to share your major achievements in the last four year as MLA, what would they be?
I worked for the freehold ownership rights for Navi Mumbai residents, for sector-wise redevelopment. I fought a battle for redevelopment and now have got approval for 51% consent, instead of 100% consent. I have also taken up the issue of regularizing of PAP homes in the villages and distributed property cards to villagers. I demanded for the transit camps in the city so that redevelopment work can be expedited.
While you have taken all issues on war footing. Issues are still pending. No CIDCO building is yet redeveloped, PAP homes isn’t regularized and even the much talked about Marina at Belapur remains pending.
I am the one who ensured CIDCO gave approval of 4 acres of land for the Marina project. But it there are political obstructions being created at every level of the project and we all know who is doing it. But courtesy citizens support and my follow up, the Water transport project worth Rs 120 Cr has already started. The Killa Gaontan project worth 17 Cr is also going to be started soon. Other projects are also coming up. Only Marina Project has been struck since it has some genuine issues which will be resolved soon. According to me one of the biggest issues I resolved was about the Turbhe dumping ground for which government was asking for Rs. 190 Cr. Citizens, especially lower rung and economically weaker classes were really suffering because of it and I am happy I resolved it. The government has given 35 acre land for it.
Is it true that even NCP corporator had met you to resolve that issue?
Yes, it’s true. NCP corporator Suresh Kulkarni came to me and said my leader is who so ever resolves this issue of my ward and I said, it doesn’t matter who you consider to be your leader. This issue affects people and their health, so I never saw the party or politics behind it. Around 8000 people reside in that area & were routinely affected by chronic health problems like dengue, malaria, TB among other diseases. The issue had become difficult to be resolved. The corporators joined me and we took to various authorities. Finally it was resolved and people are happy and grateful there. I have ambitious ideas too on using technology to convert garbage into producing electricity and I am hopeful, in the interest of the city, all politics will be kept aside and my plans would materialize soon.
Where all have you utilized your MLA funds?
In accordance with PM Modi ji’s vision for a clean India and Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan project, my biggest area of MLA funds spent is making public toilets. Unlike other public toilet, the ones built with my MLA funds, are good quality and spacious toilets. I have put mirrors and wash basins in ladies toilets so that they can even refresh there. Same is in toilets for men. Trust me when I say; some people come only to see it. Six have been made while thirty are in planning stage. I have also given three ambulances in the city health like and have given required medical equipment of Rs. 1 Crore. I also inaugurated the Belapur Hospital which was pending for a long.
To your credit, never in Vidhan Bhavan we had heard so many issues of Navi Mumbai being taken up, as much as they have in the last four years, since you went there.
Of course yes. My opposition wont accept it but the truth is earlier the MLA or MLAs of the city did not even sit inside the assembly. Issues were always there but nobody was raising them. I did. Some were fulfilled, some were not. I brought funds for many welfare works. So yes, I believe, its because of me that Navi Mumbai issues got heard in Vidhan Bhavan.
Another way to see this is that despite being from BJP, you still had to take up issues in Vidhan Bhavan. For instance the condition of the Sion Panvel highway.
It’s definitely not like that. During assembly sessions, we are all just people’s representative. No matter whose government is there in power or who is at opposition our duty is to raise public issues. In BJP party they say, as a people’s representative we must raise public issues and concerns. While giving ticket to me Honorable CM was the president and had said that I should be the voice of people from Navi Mumbai. When my honorable CM think that we shouldn’t see party or power while raising public issues, why shouldn’t I? And I think raising an issue being the MLA of the ruling party is itself an example of good governance with accountability.
In next election who is going to be your main opponent? Shiv Sena or NCP?
For me neither NCP nor Shiv Sena are competition. And I say this on back of the work I have done. Unlike my predecessors, I never even look at the party of the corporators who comes to me with work. For me they are all representatives elected by the people of their ward. So as I work as MLA, I also work for the corporators and their issues. No one had thought Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj would win but he did. Intelligence and karma is always victorious in the long run, more than money and muscle power.
It’s said that members of your own party are not happy with you. In fact some BJP members say this by themselves. Is it true?
No, not at all. It’s the opponents who create such rumors. They know they can put me down on the work front so they use these tactics. They also say that I always publicize my work. Why wouldn’t I. If I am doing people’s work, I would want people to know and that can be done through press and media. My question to my opponent is that you were in power for decades. In fact one term you had representation from Delhi to NMMC. All issues that we are fighting to resolve for citizens, could have been done at your fingertips. But you did not do it. You did not use the power vested in you by the people, for the welfare of people.
What according to you have you been able to achieve in the education scenario in Navi Mumbai.
I had a humble upbringing and I know how difficult it is to study without money and teachers. So I feel financial limitations shouldn’t stop a child’s education especially those who are meritorious. So I gave Rs. 66 lacs to NMMC to start digital schools in NMMC area. Recently a child from NMMC School in Airoli scored 92%. Such children should be given proper education to compete with more privileged peers from international schools. I also gave Rs. 1 Cr for old age homes. I will keep doing so in future too. I have also raised issue of ETC center for justice to special students. These students are not being given justified dues and the right to quality education.
You have often raised issues about NMMC’s ETC centre for special students, but many see this as a subject to your opponent, Shiv Sena’s Vijay Nahata.
I really don’t understand what is the relation between him and ETC Centre? I am fighting for the children’s right. I want they should be treated equally. That’s it. What’s the relation between him and NMMC ETC center? And you know, the workers at ETC centre are at the verge of suicide? Can’t it be understood how much mentally they might have tortured? All associated with are going to court. The politics of injustice should be stopped and I am fighting for that. Simple
You are a woman MLA. So expectations are high for what have you done and want to do for women.
My primary mission is women empowerment in every way. I want women to stand up on my feet. I have created self help group. I am working with CIDCO and NMMC to get plots where we can start projects where women can make a living. Moreover, I have made sure I am available for scores of women who come to me with their issues. Issues that probably they can share only with a woman MLA
Tell us your experience of personally meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji?
It’s most difficult to express it in words. The day he was coming to Navi Mumbai, I got a call from the Collector who told me I was assigned with the duty to welcome Hon PM Modiji. I was speechless for a moment. The next day, as I stood there to receive him, I was scared. This was for two reasons : one out of respect for him and second because I was going to meet a persona of the stature of PM Modiji. The Hon’ CM was kind to give me a generous introduction when Modi ji arrived. The meeting was once in a lifetime kind of experience that made me feel more responsible than ever before. Perhaps it was the goodwill I earned by working for people that I was blessed to meet Modiji. As a MLA, I must tell you I haven’t gone for holiday since 4 years. Except for medical leave owing to health, I have worked every single day for the last 4 years.
What will be your issues for the next elections? Unfinished work, new vision.
There are lots of works which I want to do. I want Ananda Ashram for old age people. It’s my dream project having all the facilities for elderly people. I want butterfly garden to be made. Also I would like to work on spreading awareness among people about redevelopment in Navi Mumbai and yes ensure PAPs get justice, including regularization of homes.
Are you confident that you will win second time too?
As a MLA I have worked for people with all my heart and soul. On the basis of this I am confident I will win again.