Mumbai: Amid a tussle between the central and state governments over the location of a metro car depot in Mumbai, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has called for a truce with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in “the larger public good”.
In a public address Sunday, Thackeray said the BJP should come forward and solve the issue regarding the location of the depot, which is meant for the under-construction Colaba-Bandra-Seepz metro line, popularly known as Metro 3.
He said he would give complete credit for it to the party, but emphasised that the state government will not let go of the contentious Kanjurmarg land “just because there are issues with it”.
The location of the car depot for the metro project has been a bone of contention between estranged allies Shiv Sena, headed by Thackeray, and BJP for some time now.
The Sena was insistent on moving the proposed car depot out of its original location, Mumbai’s ecologically sensitive Aarey Colony, since 2015, when it was a constituent of the government led by the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis. Aarey is one of the few remaining green lungs of Mumbai.
Within Thackeray’s first year as chief minister, he moved the car depot out of Aarey Colony to Kanjurmarg.
In response, the central government moved the Bombay High Court, claiming the land, which used to be a salt pan, was under its ownership. The court Wednesday stayed work on the metro car depot in Kanjurmarg.
“The unfortunate part is that the Centre has gone to court against the state government about the Kanjurmarg land saying it is a salt pan land. The state is only acting in the welfare of the city, and the Centre should do that too,” said Thackeray, who helms the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government comprising the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress.
He added that “these things can be sorted through discussions”.
‘Stop politicking and work for people’s welfare’
In the address, which was streamed across all social media platforms, Thackeray noted that his actions were propelled by a need to serve the people.
“Then what is the point in simply opposing each other for the sake of it at the cost of the larger public good? I am also ultimately a sevak of people, like PM Modi says he is pradhan sevak….You (the Centre) should serve the people instead of politicking and if you can’t do that you are not fit to be on the chair,” he said.
Thackeray also took a dig at PM Modi’s pet Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, which the Shiv Sena has been opposing. He asked why the state government should part with land at the Bandra Kurla Complex, which is prized property, for the project.
After the court’s stay on work at the Kanjurmarg land, the MVA government has been considering using the Bandra Kurla Complex plot as one of the alternatives for the Metro 3 car depot.
‘Kanjurmarg land important from a long-term perspective’
In all this, the BJP has maintained that Aarey Colony is the only feasible location for the project to be completed within a certain timeframe and cost bracket.
However, lashing out at the party, Thackeray said there was no point in harping on about development alone and one should take into consideration the city’s longer-term welfare.
“Yes, I am egoistic. I am egoistic when it comes to the city’s welfare,” the CM said, explaining that the Aarey Metro depot was planned with a short-term perspective and more land would be needed in the future to accommodate expansion plans. This would lead to more loss of tree cover in the green lung.
“The land identified at Kanjurmarg is 45 hectares and it is from the perspective of satisfying infrastructure needs for the next 50-100 years. It will be an integrated car depot for three metro lines and connect Metro 3 all the way to Ambernath, Badlapur,” Thackeray said.
The chief minister also noted that the Union government was stalling the Mumbai civic body’s proposal for a portion of the salt pan land in the village Mahul for a much-needed pumping station for the city.
“Every year, Mumbai gets flooded. There’s a problem with the geography of Mumbai and hence we are trying to build pumping stations to prevent flooding. One of them is proposed at Mahul, which is a salt pan land and a request for the land is stuck with the Centre,” Thackeray said.