New Delhi: Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, the man behind the Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro, is joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of Kerala’s legislative assembly elections this year.
According to news reports, BJP Kerala president K. Surendran said that E. Sreedharan will officially join the party during the ‘Vijaya Yatra’ (political rally) on February 21.
“I have decided to join the BJP, just official formalities remain,” Sreedharan told NDTV from his hometown Mallapuram.
The 88-year-old, known for changing the face of public transport in India, told the channel he was ready to contest elections if the party wanted.
However, it’s still not clear whether Sreedharan will be given a Lok Sabha ticket, considering BJP’s decision not to give Lok Sabha poll tickets to those above 75 years of age. This rule was previously applied to BJP veterans like L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
When asked about the party’s ideology on love jihad – a fabricated right-wing conspiracy that alleges Muslim men are converting Hindu women on the pretext of marriage – and the Sabarimala tradition of barring women between 10 and 50 years, Sreedharan told NDTV, “I believe in the party. This is the reason why I have joined the party. BJP’s stand is correct.”
Criticising opposition parties in the state, he told the Hindustan Times: “I have been staying in the state for last ten years and observing political climate. Both fronts, ruling LDF and opposition UDF, are interested furthering their organisations.” He added that state leaders from the BJP had approached him last week and he agreed to their suggestion.
“They suggested me to contest in the upcoming assembly election. I agreed to this also,” he told the national daily.
Sreedharan’s entry may prove to be a boost for the BJP in Kerala where it has won only one assembly seat – Nemom constituency in Thiruvananthapuram – in 2016. So far the party has not won any parliamentary seat in the state.
The ‘metro man’ started as an assistant engineer with the Indian Railways Engineering Service in 1954. He worked there for 36 years and retired in 1990.
In the 1990s, Sreedharan headed the Konkan Railway project and played a major role in repairing the Pamban bridge in 1963 – an engineering marvel which survived a cyclone – in just 46 days, months before its estimated deadline.
Then he became the managing director of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) in 1997. Under his stewardship, the first phase of the Delhi Metro was completed in just two years and nine months, again, three months earlier than originally scheduled, and without cost overruns.
After his retirement from DMRC in December 2011, he was given the task of overseeing the Kochi Metro, the monorails in Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, and the construction of the south-west speed-rail track.
The civil engineer is also credited for his help and guidance for completing the Lucknow Metro project in record time.
He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2001 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2008.