Stating that the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s (MVA) decision to not invite him for the inauguration of the two Metro lines — 2A and 7 — did not matter to him and that what was important was to take the project to its logical end, BJP leader and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Saturday said the government should give its consent for the Metro car shed at Arey and fast track the Metro 3 project for the larger wellbeing of Mumbaikars.
Fadnavis said, “During our regime, we gave Metro rail projects highest priority. Regular monitoring along with the status of the work used to take place. The MVA government has considerably slowed and stopped some project works. The MVA has made the Metro car shed an issue by opposing its location at Arey. But by doing so it has adversely affected the welfare of Mumbaikars. The citizens will not forgive the Uddhav Thackeray-led government.”
Fadnavis said, “The MVA government has not invited me or BJP leaders for the inauguration of the two metro lines. It does not matter. People of Maharashtra know our efforts in the project. It was during our regime that the Metro network got an impetus. We planned and executed the project.”
While asserting that the BJP is not in the credit race, Fadnavis said, “I am happy that the Metro lines were inaugurated by the CM. Similarly, they should allow the car shed at Arey as was originally planned to facilitate quick operation of Metro 3. The work of Metro 3 is 80 per cent complete.”
Fadnavis also warned the MVA against delaying the Metro 3 work and said it would lead to a huge cost escalation and deny people their right to commute comfortably.
It must be mentioned here that Shiv Sena has been staunchly opposing the car shed at Arey citing environmental concerns. The Sena wants the relocation of the car shed for Metro 3 from Arey to Kanjurmarg. At present, the project is stalled.
In 2016, the Metro 3 project cost was estimated at Rs 33,406 crore. The 33.5-km stretches between Cuffe Parade (Nariman Point) and Seepz (Andheri). The Japan International Cooperation Association (JICA) will provide 60 per cent funds for the project. However, due to a dispute over a car shed, the project has been inordinately delayed.
The ruling MVA and Opposition BJP also sparred over the credit for the Metro projects. The MVA’s decision to not invite Fadnavis has also upset the BJP with the party’s vice-president Prasad Lad saying, “Everybody is well versed with the relentless efforts made by Fadnavis to get the Metro projects on track. From getting multi-department approval from the Centre to organising the funds to make the project economically feasible, Fadnavis worked hard between 2014 and 2019. Therefore, not inviting him for the inauguration was wrong. The Shiv Sena wants to take all the credit.”
Meanwhile, the Congress chief spokesperson Atul Londhe said, “The BJP has the habit of hijacking credit for others’ work. The Metro concept and planning was done by former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. Why are they raising a hue and cry? In the past, the BJP never gave Congress or Chavan credit for the Metro. It projected itself as the pioneer of the Metro project.”
A close aide of Fadnavis on condition of anonymity said, “As a CM, Fadnavis had given the Metro network an identity. Instead of taking the Metro work in bits, he had planned that the Metro rail would connect the entire city. A 272-km Metro network criss-crossing the entire city was planned. JICA had opted to fund it for long term and with almost a meagre interest.”
The aide added, “The objective of the Metro network was to maximize rail connectivity to facilitate the transport system which would bring relief to Mumbaikars. Almost half a million Mumbaikers commute from one end to the other for work and livelihood in the city on a daily basis. The current local train service has a capacity to ferry 70,000 people daily. The Metro network, once it becomes fully-operational, will accommodate 90,000 people daily and almost work as a robust parallel network to the existing local trains.”