Fate of bullet train hangs in the balance
Representational Image/ Unsplash

Fate of the Rs 1.08 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train was left hanging in the balance after the Shiv Sena-controlled Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) rejected the transfer of 2,000 hectares of land. Five years after the central government sanctioned the 508-km long Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor, only 97 hectares out of the 432 hectares of land in Maharashtra has been acquired, which is only 22% of the total land required. In Gujarat, a total of 825 hectares out of 956 hectares has been acquired, which is 86%. The Maharashtra government has not yet made a contribution to the equity of Rs 22,000 crore.

Shiv Sena, passing the resolution at the general body meeting on Wednesday, has surprised its estranged ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The ruling party in TMC has also rejected a proposal to accept compensation from the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited, in charge of the bullet train project, for the transfer of the land. It has simply dumped the proposal in the cold storage and put the ball in the court of the BJP-led government at the Centre.

Thane Mayor Naresh Maske, “The file pertaining to the transfer of land for the bullet train project has been closed now.”

This move came days after the party led Maha Vikas Aghadi government faced embarrassment with the Bombay High Court staying the Mumbai Suburban District Collector’s decision to transfer land for the Metro 3 carshed project at Kanjurmarg. Shiv Sena has led a scathing attack against BJP for putting roadblocks in the development projects being pursued by the MVA government in Maharashtra and warned that it will do the same for the central government projects, be it the bullet train or other infrastructure projects.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had questioned the very purpose of the bullet train, saying that it will benefit Gujarat more and not Maharashtra. Last Sunday, in his web address to citizens, Thackeray said that the issues with regard to the Kanjurmarg land, where the Centre has staked its ownership claim or bullet train, can be resolved through dialogue. Former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, in his response, said BJP was always ready for dialogue, but wanted the Thackeray-led government not to waste time but start the carshed project at Aarey Colony.

Despite Thackeray’s call for talks, TMC’s decision may lead to confrontation with the Centre. However, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s move to mediate and talk to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a new twist to the ongoing ‘’tu tu mai mai’’ between Shiv Sena and BJP. Now, the scene shifts to Delhi.

BJP leader from Thane admitted, unless the state and Centre swing into action, the land acquisition and subsequent development will not take place.

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