Union minister and BJP leader Narayan Rane should be grateful to the Supreme Court for granting him three months to demolish the illegal portion of his eight-storey residential building in Mumbai. True, the court rejected his appeal against the Bombay High Court’s order to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to demolish those portions of the building which were built in violation of the floor space index under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ). The minister’s demand to consider another application for evaluation of the violation was dismissed with a cost of Rs 10 lakh. Why Mr Rane should be thankful to the court is because now he can himself demolish the illegal portions without causing destruction of the parts that have legal sanction. The BMC authorities would be less indulgent, and might not exercise as much caution as Mr Rane’s own staff would. Of course, demolition would be demolition, no matter who does it. Mr Rane and company have only themselves to blame for the loss and for the bad publicity he as a politician has received.
There are provisions in the law which allow municipal authorities to legalise minor violations in construction by imposing a fine on the property owner. In this case, as the court noticed, the violations are huge and almost half the building will have to be razed. That is precisely why the apex court did not hear his plea to let the BMC re-examine the violations and impose a fine. Had it been granted, it would have sent a wrong signal that all are not equal and some are more than equal. Court-ordered demolitions have become the order of the day. It was only recently that two high-rise buildings in Delhi were brought down through a controlled implosion. Earlier, five apartment buildings in Kochi where the allottees had started living were demolished in the same manner. Now, a Rs 350-crore resort of the Muthoot group is being demolished. What is striking is that all these buildings were allowed to come up in gross violation of the laws. Like prevention is better than cure, the authorities should not allow any violation of the law, even if it is by a person as influential as Narayan Rane. Demolition is not the solution, except as a warning to all potential violators.
Open season in the Congress
The Indian National Congress has become the best political party to run away from. Innumerable are its leaders who have found a berth in parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party and even the CPM. Some of them have shown remarkable agility in forming their own political parties and coming to power, as in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. There is hardly any political party in the country which does not have ex-Congressmen in its ranks. Septuagenarian Ghulam Nabi Azad, who the other day launched his Democratic Azad Party (DAP), is the latest to whistle in the dark. He did this soon after former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh joined the BJP lock, stock and barrel. Mr Azad knows that his fate will be no better than that of the scion of the Gwalior princely house who joined the BJP and became a Union minister after breaking the Congress in Madhya Pradesh. The Congress is now a party of immense possibilities. Nobody knows whose brainwave it was to get the Congress nominees in Goa to swear in public that they would not leave the party under any circumstances, but within months of their electoral success they defected to the BJP in one big group. Earlier, almost the whole Congress legislature party in Meghalaya metamorphosed itself into the Trinamool Congress.
What’s worse, in each case, the defectors ensured that the law enacted by the Congress under its prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to prevent defection would not apply to them. The BJP may or may not have paid them money but the point is that they were only too willing to accept either power or pelf. Over the years, the Congress has become a party of rebels. Until two days ago, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was hailed as the one under whose leadership the Congress would be rejuvenated and made a fighting force as it was during Mahatma Gandhi’s time. The same son-struck Mr Gehlot is ready to do anything to prevent Sachin Pilot from becoming his successor. Mr Pilot is no better either, as he is the one who tried in vain to destabilise the government and become chief minister. In a set-up where every Congressman is a rebel or a potential rebel, it is the poor voter who does not know whether voting for the Congress is voting for the BJP or any other party. What a fall for the grand old party!