The Maharashtra unit of the Congress party hit the streets on Monday to protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government’s decision to hike rail fares even as the BJP came under attack from its main ally for the decision.
Congress activists staged a rail-roko dharna in many of the suburban railway stations demanding roll back of the hike. Several senior leaders, including Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Manikrao Thakre and Rajya Sabha MP Husain Dalwai travelled without ticket in suburban local train from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Thane as a mark of protest.
The Congress termed it as a ‘civil disobedience’ movement. Similar protests were also carried out in Andheri, Malad, Vile Parle, Ambernath and Asangaon stations. “The common man will suffer due to the government’s decision. We demand an immediate roll back. Until that time, we will continue with our agitation,” Mr.Thakre said.
The hike in passenger fare is likely to hit the pockets of Mumbaikars hard as they will have to shell out double, and in some cases, triple the amount for monthly and quarterly season tickets.
Flaying its chief ally in the State, the Shiv Sena said the government's decision had armed the opposition with a weapon even as it reluctantly accepted the fare hike by urging the government that “this should be the final increase.”
The government has said the hike was intended to provide safety, security and comfort to the passengers, but the people and opposition parties are not convinced, Uddhav Thackarey, Shiv Sena supremo, said in an editorial in his party mouthpiece Saamna on Monday.
“Compared to the railway systems in developed countries in Europe, Russia, the US, ours resembles a khatara gaadi. Our railway stations, railway tracks, signals etc. are in a horrible state. Crowds have increased but new routes have barely been introduced and whatever the British had built, we continue to overload it,” he said.
Responding to its criticism by the Sena, the BJP dismissed it as merely an opinion, which “did not reflect any differences.” “It’s their view. We have our views. The decision was taken by the government of which the Sena is a part. We have written to the Centre to rethink its decision,” Vinod Tawde, Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council said.
The State BJP has urged Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to reconsider the rail fair as it is “too taxing” for common people. “We took cognizance of the feeling of the people and took necessary action. We have requested the Centre to reconsider it,” said Devendra Fadnavis, State BJP president.
Mr.Tawde expressed his satisfaction at the response from the Centre. “Rajnathji has assured to talk to Railway Minister, Finance Minister & Hon PM,” he tweeted. Meanwhile, Mandha Mhatre, former NCP MLC who quit her party last week, was inducted into the BJP on Monday in the presence of State’s top party leadership.