Mumbai: An audio tape, inviting Mumbaikars to attend the BJP anniversary jamboree at BKC on Friday, was being played in the Western Railway train compartments on Wednesday, raising the issue of propriety. Kurla Complex grounds will witness a saffron conclave on Friday when the BJP celebrates its 38th foundation day. Party president Amit Shah will address an expected 1,00,000 party workers at the event, termed a ‘Virat Melava’ (mega convention) by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis,” the audio stated.
Sensing trouble, the Railway authorities shrugged responsibility, saying the advertisements are given to private companies and what is to be aired is their prerogative. “The contract is awarded to private companies to air commercial audio clips. Our role ends there. We are not aware of what messages are being circulated,” said a Railway official. Commuters travelling for years said there has been no such precedent where political parties were allowed to relay messages in compartments, though the railway authorities have been allowing commercial audio taped advertisements on a daily basis for the last few years.
“Never have I, in my 30 years of commuting, heard anything like this. Political party promotion in the garb of advertisements is never heard of. How come the Railways have accommodated only one party? Or will we be listening to all party messages henceforth?” asked Rajesh Khakkar, 49, a Kandivali resident, who was commuting on a 19:24 Borivali-bound train from Churchgate. Another Borivali commuter said the Railway authorities are at fault. “How do they accept advertisements on the train in the first place? The party is trying to influence people by such messages, and Railways are abetting the move. The Railways are supposed to be an independent body and not a medium of broadcast,” said Satya Shetty, 33.