Bandra (East) MLA Zeeshan Siddique of the Congress, who recently won Mumbai’s Youth Congress election with 88,517 votes, says the party should contest alone in next year’s BMC polls. He tells The Indian Express about the Youth Congress, corruption in the BMC and future of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state. Excerpts from an interview:
What does this win for the Youth Congress mean to you?
This is the third election I have won. I have been vice-president of the district, and general secretary after that. This time I contested for state president. Youth Congress made me what I am today and I am looking forward to work more in future. I became the youngest MLA in Maharashtra, and I feel Mumbai needs a strong and young face to lead.
What does the Youth Congress do?
We represent the youth. There are many issues related to young people that are not raised properly. As a young MLA, I can raise these issues in the Assembly.
Youth Congress has an extensive membership procedure. Anyone from any background can enroll, become a leader and then work for the betterment of society, to become the voice of youngsters.
Infighting within the Congress is common knowledge, so was it a surprise that some did not want you to become the president of the state youth wing?
When it comes to elections, everyone has a democratic right to choose a side. Whatever happened in the election has happened. I am thankful to get the highest number of votes in Mumbai. Now the aim is to have a stable organisation.
Has the past year been challenging?
It’s been different because nobody expected Covid-19. I have always seen my father as an MLA and get the love from the people he has. When I became an MLA, I knew I had a large responsibility on my shoulders.
I was on the road even during Covid times, I was reaching out to people and trying to help them in any capacity I could. During lockdown it was not possible to meet people so we tried to help numerous people who contacted us through social media. It was a challenging task. I am hoping we can return to normalcy soon.
What is your experience working with the MVA government?
I am a true Congressman, and being part of the MVA is that there are like-minded youngsters along with me in other parties of the MVA. There is Aaditya (Thackeray), Rituraj (Patil), we have great bonding with each other.
Glitches do come along and it’s normal. But we all have a common goal, which is the betterment of the state.
What do you think, should the Congress fight the BMC elections on its own or with its MVA coalition partners?
I feel our party should contest on its own. A few days ago our Mumbai president Bhai Jagtap too said the same. I agree with the point because we have a strong cadre. We should give an opportunity to our people to contest the election.
There are a lot of issues in the BMC, which we would like to resolve and for that we need to see that our mayor sits at the seat of the BMC.
Do you face any issues when it comes to development in your constituency, as to get work done, you need an no-objection certificate from the BMC that is ruled by the Shiv Sena?
There are some problems we face, and whenever such issues arise I inform my party leadership. They are aware of shortcomings. There should be a common aim to work for development.
The work I want to do is for the people. Any work and complaint I suggest is for the betterment of people. I want work to move faster. It takes months to get an NOC, and as a public representative, I will be at it again and again. I will do what it takes to live up to the expectations of my voters.
I have written to BMC Commissioner IS Chahal to conduct a thorough audit, as there is allegedly a lot of corruption.
Has the BMC responded yet?
The BMC hasn’t replied to me yet. There are plenty of issues yet to be resolved. As an MLA, it’s my duty to inform the authorities, and sometimes there’s a delay in getting an NOC.
What is the future of the MVA?
We formed the government for the betterment of the state. In all relations or alliances, there will be some hiccups, but we are bonding well. I like the way youngsters think, and they have the guidance of seniors.
Why do you believe the Congress can crack the BMC elections next year on its own?
We are a national party. If there is any party that has done well for the country, it is the Congress. We have capable people.
I have travelled during Youth Congress elections and have seen how good these youngsters are. I will request the party to give youngsters a chance.
Who would have thought I would become an MLA at the age of 27? I came from the Youth Congress. I want to ensure many young candidates get election tickets. We will win the seats allotted to these youngsters. It’s about time we have a mayor from the Congress.
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