Mumbai: Ahead of the Mumbai civic poll scheduled in February 2022, a credit war has broken out between the incumbent Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over Mumbai’s Metro rail development.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, also Shiv Sena president, Monday flagged off the trial run for two new Metro rail corridors, work on which was initiated when BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis was CM from 2014 to 2019.
On Sunday evening, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which Shiv Sena Minister Eknath Shinde heads, illuminated the Akurli Metro station in Kandivali, from where the trial run was inaugurated, in different colours, complete with a caricature of CM Thackeray on the station facade.
On Monday, just before Thackeray arrived to give the Metro rail rake a green flag, leaders from BJP’s Mumbai unit hoisted black flags outside the station. The police dispersed the protesters before the CM arrived at the spot.
Simultaneously, BJP leaders also took to Twitter with the hashtag ‘Thank Fadnavis 4 Metro’, while criticising Thackeray for allegedly putting spanners in the larger Metro plan of the city and taking credit for the former CM’s work.
‘Thackeray doesn’t have moral right to flag off trial run’
The BJP’s Mumbai unit tweeted from its official handle, “Every single pillar of the Metro was erected through the efforts of former CM Devendra Fadnavis with a vision of Mumbai’s development. He was the one who expanded the Metro in all four directions and today the chief minister, who set out to destroy the Metro plan, is shining for credit.”
The opposition party was mainly referring to Thackeray’s decision to move the Metro car shed for another line, the underground Colaba-Bandra-Seepz that is still under construction, out of its existing location of Aarey Colony, one of Mumbai’s few green lungs.
CM Thackeray decided to relocate the car shed to a piece of land in Kanjurmarg, only to have the Centre and several other private parties stake claim on it. The matter is currently in court.
Monday’s event was to flag off the trial run on the first phase of two other elevated Metro lines — one from Dahisar to DN Nagar and the other from Dahisar East to Andheri East.
BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar who led the protest at the Akurli Metro station said, “This is an integrated Metro plan. For the main Metro line that runs from Colaba to Seepz, the CM stubbornly changed the location of the car shed and created a hurdle for Metro work. The CM does not have the moral right to flag off this trial run. This is 100 per cent an attempt to take credit.”
Other BJP MLAs from Mumbai such as the party’s Mumbai president Mangal Prabhat Lodha, and Ameet Satam, Parag Shah and Yogesh Sagar also tweeted their gratitude to Fadnavis for the milestone in the Metro work.
CM Thackeray, however, refrained from making any political comment at the event. He said, “Life has stopped, and though the pace of work (on infrastructure projects) also slowed down, officials did not let work stop. These works will help to speed up our lives by a great measure once lockdown restrictions are lifted.”
The trial runs
Next year’s election to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is likely to be fought neck-and-neck between estranged allies Shiv Sena, which has controlled the civic body for two decades, and the BJP.
The two Metro lines for which Thackeray flagged off the trial runs Monday are likely to be the only big-ticket infrastructure projects in Mumbai to be commissioned before next year’s civic polls.
The commissioning of the two lines will be significant, as they will finally add to Mumbai’s measly 11.4-km Metro rail network inaugurated seven years ago.
The two corridors, known as Metro 2A and Metro 7, will be commissioned in two phases. The first phase of 20 km will be ready for use by September this year, while the rest is likely to be completed by January 2022, an MMRDA official said.
Other than these two lines, construction on four more Metro rail corridors with a collective network of about 104 km is currently underway. The authority has also started initial works such as soil testing and barricading of road portions for three more corridors with a collective network of 41.1 km.
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