It was Bal Thackeray's dream project, as well as one of Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government's major achievements. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway ranks first among the few notable accomplishment that the maiden Sena-BJP combine had in its saffron kitty.
performance was building 55 flyovers under the watchful eye of the Sena chief.
Before coming to power in 1995, the Sena-BJP had made several promises in their manifesto - Vachannama. While most of them didn't become reality in the four-and-a-half years of rule, the expressway was an exception.
It was because of Thackeray's approval that the then PWD minister, Nitin Gadkari, could take up the Mumbai-Pune road project.
The Sena chief was made to understand that the state would be able to construct the expressway at lower cost compared to the private bidders.
Under Thackeray's command, things such as land acquisition and formation of a corporation (MSRDC) to undertake the project by raising money from the market took place quickly.
But Thackeray didn't only approve of people-pleasing decisions. He also stood behind his second CM, Narayan Rane, who wanted to reduce the retirement age of state employees to 58 from 60 years.
Although many did not like the decision, Thackeray ensured its implementation.
The Thackeray-led Sena-BJP combine did what wasn't expected. It adopted economic reforms put in place by Congress Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and finance minister Manmohan Singh. This ensured inflow of investment - domestic and international - in the state.
However, Thackeray's two pet projects - giving free houses to slum dwellers in Mumbai and providing jobs to 34 lakh unemployed youngsters in Maharashtra - which had helped the Sena-BJP win power in 1995, failed
Bad planning and execution as well as the greedy builders' lobby ensured that the Sena chief's dream project of a slum-free Mumbai did not become a success. The slum rehabilitation scheme was treated as an opportunity to make money.
Even the plan to give jobs to unemployed youth never took off. The failure of these two projects also became a liability for the Sena in the coming years.
Another decision that backfired was opening zunka bhakar centres. They ran on government subsidy, but indulged in all sorts of other businesses. Rane was finally forced to scrap the scheme.
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