Campaigning for the February 1 Pune Municipal Corporation has gathered momentum with several civic issues being discussed by the political parties to gain political mileage. However, the ruling Congress party's prestigious Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, which in fact has been criticised by the opposition after it took toll of many people in the last two months has turned out to be a dominant issue in the polls with political parties banking on it to navigate flow of votes.
The issue of BRT taking lives of people has been taking rounds in the poll campaign right from the start after the first mishap was reported on the BRT track at Satara road on December 6. However, after the latest death on BRT track, which occurred on January 26 the issue was brought to the forefront. Prominent names which figured in the campaign were of Union Minister Sharad Pawar, NCP leader Ajit Patil and leaders from BJP and Shiv Sena who started hitting back the ruling Congress party over the implementation of the project in a "hurried manner".
Pawar, while addressing a public rally lashed out at the Congress saying "despite people getting killed due to BRT on road, the ruling party has been adamant over its implementation. In such a case we cannot extend help to such people".
There was an immediate reaction to Pawar's statement after Congress leader Govindrao Adik criticised Pawar for "politicising the BRT issue".
So far 10 people have been killed on the BRT track, after its implementation on Pune Satara road some two months ago. The Pune Mahanagar Transport (PMT), however, which has been overseeing the BRT management, claimed that only three persons were killed directly due to BRT. PMT claimed, others died due to negligence of traffic rules. The political parties including BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP, however, are not ready to buy the PMT version and have been criticising the ruling party for its adamant stand to implement the project.
In November last, despite opposition from other political parties, the Congress went ahead with their agenda and implemented BRT project on pilot basis. Pune is the first city to have the BRT project. A total of Rs 1000 cr have been allocated for the project under center's JNURM, and if the civic body does not utilize the money, the city will lose its chunk, says Congress.
The Congress has been aggressive on the project with the party projecting it as a panacea to the much battered road transport of the city. Congress has also kept its main thrust on the BRT project in its manifesto for the polls. "There might have been some errors in the project, but the project once successfully implemented will solve the traffic problem of the city", said Congress leader and city MP Suresh Kalamadi.