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Big-ticket Mumbai-Nagpur expressway was whose idea? Ex-allies Sena & BJP in fresh credit war

BJP & Shiv Sena have also been battling for credit for two Mumbai metro lines, conceptualised during their coalition govt from 2014-2019. Metro lines inaugurated by CM Thackeray Saturday.

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Mumbai: The BJP and the Shiv Sena are at loggerheads again, this time over which of them should claim credit for Maharashtra’s soon-to-be-inaugurated showpiece 701-km Mumbai-Nagpur expressway.

The first part of the six-lane Samruddhi Mahamarg, connecting Nagpur and Shirdi, is expected to be opened to the public in May.

The tug-of-war over the expressway follows a similar race for credit between the two former allies over two Mumbai Metro lines inaugurated just days before.

Speaking to reporters in Nagpur Tuesday, Maharashtra BJP leader and former CM Devendra Fadnavis said nobody can separate his name from the Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi Super Expressway, claiming that the building of the road was his idea and his name could not be “erased from this project”.

The former CM added that the Shiv Sena’s efforts to claim credit for the project would be in vain.

Adding that the expressway should be inaugurated after all pending work is completed, he said he was “happy today that people who had once opposed the project are now getting impatient to inaugurate it”.

When the Mumbai-Nagpur project was conceptualised in 2016, the Shiv Sena was initially opposed to the idea, and came out in support of the farmers who were allegedly against their lands being acquired for the project.

However, in 2017, Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra PWD Minister Eknath Shinde claimed that his party was “never against the Samruddhi Mahamarg” and “only wanted to protect farmer interest”. The BJP and the Shiv Sena were at the time coalition partners in the government headed by Fadnavis. The alliance ended after the 2019 assembly election in the state.

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant points at this alliance to retaliate against Fadnavis’ claims for credit for the Samruddhi Mahamarg. “Please ask Devendra Fadnavis whether he was a BJP CM or CM of the alliance? The work was commenced by the government and not one man,” said Sawant.

Referring to the Mumbai-Pune expressway, which was opened to the public in 2002, Sawant added, “Gadkari (BJP leader and Union Road Transport and Highways minister Nitin Gadkari) doesn’t go on claiming credit for it. He gets it anyway as nobody can deny that the expressway was built during his tenure (as state PWD minister). But he also gives credit to Balasaheb Thackeray (who had conceptualised the expressway, the first such in Maharashtra), since it was an alliance government (of the BJP and Shiv Sena).”

The Shiv Sena MP also said his party was taking projects forward, instead of stalling them or changing them “unlike him (Devendra Fadnavis)”, who is opposing the use of land in Mumbai’s Kanjurmarg for an underground Metro car shed.

While both the Centre and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government have claimed ownership of the land, the project has also drawn the ire of green activists.


Also read: AIMIM wants to join MVA to make 3-wheeler rickshaw a ‘comfortable car’, Sena rejects offer


The war for credit

The BJP and the Shiv Sena have also been battling for credit for two Mumbai metro lines, inaugurated by CM Uddhav Thackeray Saturday.

Both lines (running along Link Road and the Western Express Highway in the northwestern part of Mumbai) were announced during Fadnavis’ tenure as CM, between 2014 and 2019.

The BJP put up posters in Mumbai thanking Fadnavis for the two Metro lines, and the Maharashtra unit tweeted a video claiming that the “Metro projects got delayed” due to “the inefficiency and corruption of Sena”.

Thackeray responded to the BJP’s allegations of delay Saturday by saying that “they (the BJP) should see that the work they started, we have taken it forward”.

“We never stopped any work that they started. But if the credit has to be given, I would like to give it to Mumbaikars and their efforts that are bearing fruit now,” he added.

Fadnavis’ tenure and credit for the Samruddhi Mahamarg

In 2014, when Fadnavis took charge as Maharashtra CM, he kept the urban development portfolio. Many infrastructural and urban development projects that were conceptualised during the previous Congress-NCP regime were undertaken by Fadnavis between 2014 and 2019. The former CM sought to project himself as the face of development in Maharashtra.

One of the projects undertaken under him was the expansion of Mumbai’s Metro lines. Pre-development work on the proposed Navi Mumbai airport project, stuck in the pipeline for nearly two decades, also started during his tenure.

The ambitious-but-delayed redevelopment of the BDD chawls in Mumbai was given a push by Fadnavis and work finally started earlier this year.

The other big-ticket project that was conceptualised during Fadnavis’ tenure was the 701-km Samruddhi Mahamarg, joining Mumbai with Nagpur.

Formally known as the Hindu Hrudaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg, the expressway — which passes through the ten districts of Nagpur, Wardha, Amravati, Washim, Buldhana, Aurangabad, Jalna, Ahmednagar, Nashik and Thane — is expected to cut down travel time between the two cities to eight-nine hours, from the current 16 to 18 hours.

It will also connect several industrial areas, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, dry ports of Wardha and Jalna, and Mumbai’s JNPT.

The expressway, whose construction began in January 2019, has been developed by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and is a greenfield project, built at a cost upwards of Rs 46,000 crore.

Eknath Shinde, PWD and Urban Development Minister in Thackeray’s cabinet, announced last month that the first part of the highway was likely to be opened to public in May.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)


Also read: Shiv Sena baits Congress with UPA rejig calls, names 6 regional leaders for anti-BJP front


 

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