The Rs 1.08 lakh crore bullet train project connecting Mumbai and Ahmedabad may come to a halt if a Shiv Sena-Congress-Nationalist Congress party government takes power in Maharashtra, The Indian Express reported. Expenditure for the project may be diverted towards farmers’ welfare programmes and a general farm loan waiver, according to the Common Minimum Programme drawn up between the three parties.
“The state will meet the expenses from the share it had earlier committed towards capital expenditure for the bullet train project,” an unidentified former Congress minister, who had been part of the deliberations on the Common Minimum Programme, told the newspaper.
The former Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government, in which the Shiv Sena was a partner, had drawn up a Memorandum of Understanding with the Railways and the Gujarat government to start the project. Maharashtra had committed to a capital expenditure of Rs 5,000 crore for the project, which is expected to cut travel time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad to two hours. It will be finished in 2023.
Around 150 km of the railway line is to be built in Maharashtra. Land acquisition for the project is currently under way.
“The move [to divert expenditure from the project] will enable us to raise the required resources to fund the farmer welfare initiatives,” a Nationalist Congress Party leader told The Indian Express. Unidentified officials told the newspaper that stopping expenditure to the bullet train initiative is also meant to send a message to the Narendra Modi-led central government.
“If the project has to go ahead, the Centre should bear all cost of it,” a Congress leader told NDTV. “Maharashtra won’t expend on the bullet train project.”
Current political situation in Maharashtra
The Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party are currently in the final stretch of talks to form a government in the state. On Friday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray held a meeting with party MLAs, after talking to Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar the previous day. A meeting of all three parties is expected to take place later in the day.
The Bharatiya Janata Party had bagged 105 seats in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, elections to which were held on October 21. It had a pre-poll alliance with the Shiv Sena, which won 56 seats. However, the BJP rejected the Shiv Sena’s demand for the chief minister’s berth for two-and-a-half years and 50% of the positions in the Maharashtra Cabinet.
Subsequently, the alliance fell apart and President’s Rule was declared in Maharashtra on November 12. The Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena then entered into dialogue for an alternative formation in the state.