Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was probably in a hurry to inaugurate 16 flyovers in the city for two reasons. One, the code of conduct for the forthcoming civic polls could come into force anytime. Two, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is visiting the city later this month.
"People may think this is about the elections. But it is not so," Deshmukh said at the inaugural function at Santacruz airport on Sunday. "We decided to inaugurate these projects today because the paperwork has been completed and the construction will begin soon."
Deshmukh also made a U-turn on the issue of regularisation of slums, clearly in an effort to appease the huge vote bank living in them. He said Congress would stick to its decision to regularise slums built before 2000.
When the party's earlier announcement, regarding this drew flak, it tried to save the situation saying there was a printing error in its manifesto and it will regularise only those slums that came up before 1995.
Through this announcement, along with the inauguration of 16 flyovers, Deshmukh ensured that his party has something big to cash in on for the civic polls in February 2007.
At a cost of Rs 416 crore, these flyovers promise Mumbaikars a signal-free ride from Bandra to Dahisar and Byculla to Mulund.
The CM also did his bit to please the Congress high command in New Delhi by thanking party president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for supporting the state government in its effort to fulfill the city's dreams. He also accepted Santacruz member of legislative assembly Kripashankar Singh's request that the flyover in his constituency be named after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Singh also suggested that the metro rail link should pass through the domestic airport. In response, Deshmukh said that he would forward the suggestion to Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) chief, T Chandrashekhar, for his consideration.
Deshmukh also promised that the rail overbridge at Milan subway would be built as soon as permissions from the civil aviation department come through.
Deshmukh also took the opportunity to criticise the Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for complaining that the MMRDA was encroaching upon its field of work. "The BMC is a constitutional body which involves a lot of lengthy procedures. At the MMRDA, work gets done faster," he reasoned. "Besides, the MMRDA is there to assist the BMC in a city with growing infrastructure needs which the corporation can't handle."