CM Fadnavis claims he had issued orders to party workers to bring down unauthorised hoardings a day before Mahajanadesh Yatra event in the city — but this was clearly in vain
Aday after the whole of Pune was overrun by illegal flexes, banners and hoardings bearing the visage of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on his Mahajanadesh Yatra, the face of this all-important Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaign preceding the state Assembly elections came out with a stronglyworded statement against such a marring of the city skyline.
Interestingly, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) also said they are yet to decide whether to file cases or not in this matter. This, said activist Qaneez Sukhrani, who is pursuing a contempt petition against PMC in the Bombay High Court (HC) over the long-standing illegal hoardings issue, is ample proof of the fact that PMC is acting under the thumb of the ruling party. She also asserted that cases will have to be filed as per HC directives, whether civic officials like it or not.
On Sunday, Fadnavis slammed sundry BJP leaders for putting up the illegal hoardings and posters, saying this would in no way guarantee a ticket to compete in the polls.
Corporators and BJP leaders from the city had preceding Saturday gone all out to welcome the CM on his statewide Mahajanadesh Yatra, with banners displaying their faces and his fluttering on every main road, junction and corner.
Quizzed by Mirror about the extent to which the defacement had gone, Fadnavis emphasised, “This is absolutely wrong. When I heard what had been done a day before the event, I immediately told the party’s city president to ensure that all the said signages are removed. I also want to tell our party workers that this shouldn’t be repeated. Such flexes don’t ensure tickets to contest elections. They are not a portrayal of power or strength. Those who have done this will face action as per the party’s rules.”
Soon after this declaration, before one could even say “too little, too late”, PMC swung into action. After doling out leeways for letting unauthorised hoardings stay up during and after Ganeshotsav, and looking the other way when Yatra posters were being strung up, civic officials suddenly began instructing teams to undertake drives to clean up the city. Officials from both the sky sign department and several ward offices started counting and clearing a few illegal flexes and hoardings on Sunday, but found that many leaders brought these down themselves before civic workers reached the spot.
By late on Sunday, some 140 such banners and hoardings were removed across Pune, and officials claimed this action would continue into Monday, insisting that ‘cleaning up’ Pune was their priority of the moment. Further, it was also stated that PMC will be surveying who has put up how many posters, after which a course of action will be chartered. Speaking to Mirror, municipal commissioner Saurabh Rao proclaimed, “Our machinery is on job. As of Sunday evening, more than 140 illegal banners/hoardings were removed. Notices are being issued and if need be, cases will be registered.”
But activist Sukhrani said officials don’t really have a choice. She stated, “If BJP leaders and the CM had issued orders asking party workers to not put up such hoardings, do their other leaders have no value for these statements? This is nothing but cheap publicity at the cost of the city’s defacement. Why doesn’t PMC follow HC orders? They are under the thumb of the ruling party and the opposition is spineless, too. PMC has no decision-making powers in this case — they have to file cases as told by the court, and the police need to do the same.”
BJP city chief’s face also adorned several illegal hoardings
There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip — that seems to be the case with Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) city president Madhuri Misal as far as the Mahajanadesh Yatra-illegal hoardings brouhaha goes.
Apparently, Misal had on Friday asked party workers to remove all illegal hoardings and banners in the city, but hardly anyone obliged. Strangely, it turns out that Misal herself flouted these orders.
Faced with this gaffe, Misal on Sunday claimed that all her hoardings had permissions and were completely legal — other party workers might have used her picture without permission on unauthorised ones.
The ruling party’s Yatra got a garish welcome in the city, with the skyline utterly defaced. As leaders vied for place, a quarrel broke out between factions of two leaders at Erandwane last week.
After this, Misal sent out messages stating: “If BJP party workers, corporators, or officer-bearers have put up banners/hoardings without Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) permission, remove them.” Yet, flexes draped Pune and many had Misal’s face on them, although several did not name her, only citing the endorsement of ‘political representatives’ from Parvati constituency.
Misal insisted, “I didn’t put up any illegal hoardings. If people used my pictures, I can’t control it. Also, I immediately asked workers to remove the flexes. But we can’t control everything. I further visited various areas to ensure a clean-up. Ten of us from the city unit are continuing to do so to ensure that all such banners are taken down.”
— PRACHEE KULKARNI