Several citizens and politicians have criticised the central government for making the inauguration a party affair.
New Delhi: The Delhi Metro has, since its inception nearly two decades ago, become an example of how central and state governments, irrespective of their political affiliations, can work in harmony to ensure planned development for the masses. But on Christmas Day – when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, took a metro ride in Noida, from Botanical Garden to the Okhla Bird Sanctuary station, without inviting Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal – this unspoken bond was fractured. The line that was inaugurated connects Noida to Kalkaji in south Delhi.
Modi’s tweet about the launch with pictures of himself sitting between UP governor Ram Naik and chief minister Yogi Adityanath, with Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma (who is MP for the Noida region) was a definite giveaway that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wanted to make this a party affair.
Why the chief minister of Delhi was not invited when Delhi contributes 50% of the funds for the metro construction, was the question on every lip. The question was raised by several citizens as well. One of them tweeted it in as many words:
Several politicians also responded strongly to the development with Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav terming Modi government’s action as one against the “ethics of politics”.
While Kejriwal had maintained silence on the subject saying he had no comment to offer, his deputy, Manish Sisodia, made no bones about what the top Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leadership felt about the issue. He said this was a clear insult to the public of Delhi. He said Modi was scared that Kejriwal may demand a reduction in metro fares at the event.
The Delhi government and the Centre were involved in a long duel over the fare hike issue through the year. The fare hike had finally been implemented in two phases and the metro had also witnessed a sharp fall in customers in its wake.
The AAP was also vocal in its criticism of Modi’s action. It said there was a clear disconnect between what Modi preached and what he practiced – he speaks about harmonious working between the states and the Centre, but has kept the elected government of Delhi out of the metro launch event.
The party also tweeted the reactions of a number of noted citizens to convey that “ a wrong is a wrong” and that “A PM’s fear/hatred for any CM is petty”.
While the prime minister had only travelled within Noida and the event was organised by the Uttar Pradesh government, this could hardly have been the excuse for not inviting Kejriwal. However, it is also known that Modi has no love lost for the Delhi leader who, after becoming chief minister in Delhi, had first gone on to contest against him in the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Benares and had continuously attacked Modi on various counts till early this year. In fact Kejriwal had gone to the extent of calling Modi a “psychopath” and a “coward”. He had only relented on the attacks after AAP’s poor performance in the municipal elections in Delhi, in the run up to which he had attacked Modi in 49 of his 181 tweets.
It would, however, be pertinent to note what “Metro Man” E. Sreedharan said about not inviting the Delhi chief minister. He said, “Whenever the DMRC organised inauguration of a new line, the Delhi CM was always invited because the Delhi government is 50% owner of the DMRC. But when the function is organised by the state governments, we never invited the Delhi government.”
The Delhi BJP said it too was not invited for the event and tried to use that as an excuse for the manner in which Kejriwal was kept away from the event. But technicalities surely fall far short in providing a reasonably good answer for why petty politics needed to be played over the metro.
Note: In an earlier version of this article, UP governor Ram Naik was wrongly identified as Haryana chief minister Manhar Lal Khattar.