KOCHI:An otherwise silent and serene place, Muvattupuzha shot into national attention only because of its stance on stray dogs. Outgoing Municipal Chairman U R Babu’s decision to cull stray dogs which are posing a threat to human lives invited brickbats from animal lovers across the country and it got further attention when Union Minister Maneka Gandhi sought an explanation from the Municipal Secretary on the circumstances which led to such a decision. Meanwhile, the controversies surrounding stray dogs have been pushed to the background as the political fronts and residents of the municipality keep themselves busy for the big day, which falls on Thursday.
Muvattupuzha, the confluence of three rivers, namely Thodupuzha River, Kothamangalam River and Kaliyar, first belonged to Kottayam district and then in 1953 it was declared a panchayat. It was in 1958 that it got municipality status. The municipality is considered an LDF bastion and the campaigning of this election surrounds this factor. As far as the LDF is concerned, it is looking for an extension and for the UDF it’s a opportunity to storm the LDF defence. Meanwhile, BJP is looking forward to pull out an upset victory over the two fronts. The role of rebel candidates also cannot be underestimated in the outcome of polls.
Talking to ‘Express’ on a range of subjects, U R Babu said that the strategy of his front during this election is to meet the voters highlighting the developmental activities carried out by LDF during the last five years and along with that political developments in the state and national level will also find a place.
“The municipality witnessed a range of developmental activities in the past five years. It was also the first municipality which came out strongly against the stray dog menace. Earlier, people were dealing with 150 odd stray dogs and now the number has gone down to 20-25. The rabid dogs create havoc among the people and there is no point in softening one’s stand on dogs which attack even babies and pregnant women,” said Babu.
He said that during the last five years, the Municipality office didn’t witness a single protest on its compound and the council meeting never led to a ruckus other than during political discussions. According to him, political segregation was not there in the council and councillors, irrespective of their political colour, strived for development of the municipality in unison. The claim gets substantial support from Shylaja Prabhakaran, outgoing Congress councillor, when she says that because of the unity among members, the council could do more than that of previous ones.
War of Words
On the other hand, Salim Haji, outgoing opposition leader, said that UDF will highlight the pitfalls of the LDF-led council in the polls. According to him, the municipality is facing a revenue recovery amounting to Rs 10.5 crore and the LDF has done nothing to get over this financial challenge.
“I think no other municipality had such a big financial burden tagged with it. The chairman himself, during the swearing in ceremony, said that he is wearing a crown of thorns and at that time, we extended moral support to him. The financial burden was a result of the spending spree of previous LDF councils and they have pushed the municipality into a debt trap. The government, upon our request, decided to give a breather and directed the municipality to repay the loan in 20 instalments,” said Salim Haji.
Acknowledging the debt situation, Babu said that the first time he walked into the office it was the revenue recovery notice which invited his attention and for the next few months, the priority was for repayment of loan and with pride he could say that the municipality was now financially better off than before.
According to the UDF, the council failed to address some pressing issues of the people, including waste management, and alleged that the council tried to hijack programmes of state and Central governments under its name. “LDF, in its election manifesto, claims that it had carried out scores of developmental activities. But the fact is that they had hijacked state and Central government-sponsored programmes. Many of the developmental programmes in the municipality materialised because of Joseph Vazhakkan MLA,” adds Salim Haji.
Meanwhile, LDF refuted the allegations, saying that in a democratic society, inclusive governance is the buzzword and no one can claim that something had happened because of his ability or influence.
With claims and counter claims doing the rounds, sparks are set to fly on Thursday.