Those who ‘stall’ housing for Muslims have real-estate links

SHAFAQNA – Leaders of both the BJP and Congress, including Vadodara Mayor Bharat Shah, are among those with substantial real-estate stakes in the city’s two locations — Sayajipura and Kalali — which have been seeing protests over a proposal to relocate Muslim slumdwellers there. Some of these leaders were part of the negotiations to get Muslim families to opt out of the relocation. Muslim families of Kalyannagar slums failed to get plots in Sayajipura during two draw of lots, held in March and April. On April 30, the Standing Committee of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) cleared a proposal in principle to construct homes for the Muslim evacuees of Kalyannagar in Muslim-dominated Tandalja neighbourhood. VMC officials cited “law and order” as the reason, pointing to protests by residents.

Around 320 Muslim families from Kalyannagar slums were to be moved to Sayajipura into houses built for them under the Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) scheme of JNNURM.

The VMC had in October 2014 given a sworn affidavit to the Gujarat High Court to relocate evacuees from Kalyannagar and Kamatipura slums to Kalali. But the VMC retracted from the Kalali promise and, in March, Mayor Shah suspended a housing draw at Sayajipura, thereby stalling the move to shift Muslim evacuees to the area from Kalyannagar slums. On April 8, he skipped a second draw of lots, which selected 320 of the 481 Muslim families of Kalyannagar slums to be moved to Sayajipura. None of them has got allotment letters till date.

Kalpesh Shah, the elder son of the BJP Mayor, is a partner in Earth Realty Group that has a high-end residential project as well as flats and a commercial shopping complex coming up within 500 metres of both Sayajipura and Kalali.

Former mayor Shabdsharan Brahmbhatt of the BJP, who is a sitting corporator from Tandalja, has real-estate interests in Kalali along with his brother.

BJP MLAs Yogesh Patel (Manjalpur) and Rajendra Trivedi (Raopura), who were involved in negotiations with representatives of Muslim families, have real-estate interests close to the JNNURM BSUP projects. Another BJP MLA, Manisha Vakil, in whose constituency Sayajipura falls, had approached Chief Minister Anandiben Patel at the insistence of residents against Muslim relocation.

Also with real-estate interests in the area is the Congress’s Chandrakant Shrivastav, whose Yamuna Mills is located about 2 km from the relocation site identified for Muslim families in Sayajipura.

The son of BJP corporator Dadu Gadhvi, who first submitted a memorandum to the VMC Standing Committee in March on behalf of Sayajipura residential colonies against the Muslim families, has two residential projects under development within 2 km. The brother of another BJP corporator, Ketan Brahmbhatt, is a partner with him in the projects.

the Congress, have construction firms in the area.

Shah’s son Kalpesh told The Sunday Express, “I have not had any discussion with my father on this issue. It is true I am a partner in Earth Realty; our project Earth Icon II is in the vicinity of the JNNURM apartments. But I have no idea what is going on in this issue.”

Asked further about the opposition by builders to rehabilitation of Muslim families in Sayajinagar, Kalpesh said he would “get back” after discussing the issue with his father. Asked if Muslims moving in would harm their sales, he said, “I know there is a protest but my partners make that decision on that subject.”

Bharat Shah himself did not revert to calls and text messages.

Earth Realty’s Rs 115-crore residential project, coming up a few metres from the JNNURM flats, is being promoted as a high-end complex with 2, 3 BHK homes with modern amenities. The colony is supposed to have 19 five-storey towers with total 380 flats, each costing a minimum Rs 30 lakh. The same group also has a multi-crore upcoming project in the vicinity of the Kalali scheme.

BJP Corporator Shabdsharan admitted having “family land” in the vicinity of Sun Pharma Road and Atladara within a kilometre of Kalali, saying it belonged to his father. “It is unconnected to the issue of shifting Muslim families to Kalali,” he added. “I am not involved in that process.”

Mayor Shah and Brahmbhatt were reportedly part of a meeting held by BJP leaders with residents of Kalyannagar on April 15, urging them to refuse the Sayajipura homes. Brahmbhatt does not deny being a part of this meeting, but he denies any hand in delaying the allotments.

While MLA Trivedi remained unavailable for comment, MLA Yogesh Patel, who admitted owning land 2 km from Sayajipura, denied opposing the move to shift Muslim families to the area. He got involved in the talks with Muslim families, he said, at the request of Mayor Shah and Shabdsharan Brahmbhatt.

“Bharat (Shah) and Shabdasharan came to me since I have good relations with Muslims. They wanted me to resolve the Sayajipura controversy. The Municipal Commissioner also called me several times. I did not oppose shifting of Muslim families to Sayajipura but said they must be given homes somewhere soon. I told the Mayor he should speak against the demolition of their homes and take responsibility for this instead of leaving the families in the lurch.”

Dadu Gadhvi, whose son Manu is a developer with a site near Sayajipura, denied any real-estate business. “I am a farmer,” he said.

However, another corporator, Ketan Brahmbhatt, admitted that his brother Nilesh and Manu were together developing two projects, Raj Yog of 72 apartments and Sai Sarjan with 152 apartments, near Sayajipura. “They do not have any site near the JNNURM homes,” Brahmbhatt said.

The Congress’s Chandrakant Shrivastav, who has an estate 2 km from the JNNURM site, said he had not objected to the move to shift Muslim families there.

“These are Muslim families who have been displaced due

to a thoughtless action of the civic body. I have estate in the area but why should I oppose?” Shrivastav says.

At a meeting with Kalyannagar residents on April 21, officials admitted they were under “tremendous pressure” from high-end developers as well as Sayajipura locals against allotting houses to Muslims, as this would mean there would be no takers for their apartments.

VMC Commissioner H S Patel admitted a problem with settling Muslim families in Sayajipura, saying Muslims too have been taking out rallies in protest. “There has to be an amicable solution. We are committed to rehabilitating the Muslim families to an alternative site. We do not want a law and order problem,” he said.

“I am not under any political compulsion,” Patel added.

Should they be moved to Muslim-dominated Tandalja instead of Sayajipura, the slumdwellers would get homes under the Rajiv Gandhi Awaas Yojana.

This will entail additional cost to the beneficiaries. Each JNNURM apartment in Sayajipura costs Rs 4.46 lakh, of which the beneficiary pays Rs 1.26 lakh. The Rajiv Gandhi Awaas Yojana homes cost approximately Rs 4.9 lakh, with the beneficiary’s share about Rs 1.5 lakh.

Moreover, while the JNNURM homes are ready and currently lying vacant, the RAY homes are yet to be built.

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