The Bandra-Worli Sealink, inaugurated by Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday, is likely to become the centre of a political storm.
At the inaugural function, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar suggested that the Rs 852-crore sealink, the first of its kind in India, be christened the ‘Rajiv Gandhi Sealink’.
As 25 politicians looked on, including Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and four Union Cabinet ministers, Pawar declared: “Youngsters can’t get a better idol than Rajiv Gandhi. I request that the government name the bridge after him.”
Pawar then called upon Public Works Department Minister-in-Charge of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) Vimal Mundada to get the paperwork for the naming the bridge ready. Mundada is a member of the NCP, and the demand seemed to steal the thunder from the Congress leaders sitting on the dais. Chavan immediately announced that the bridge would be called the Rajiv Gandhi Sealink.
This is likely to raise the political temperature in Maharashtra, which will hold its Assembly elections in September. The Shiv Sena had demanded that the sealink be named after a Maharashtrian leader like Veer Savarkar. It said it would oppose the decision to name the sealink after Rajiv Gandhi and would not allow state authorities to put up his name on the bridge.
“Is it a rule that everything in this country has to be named after the Gandhi-Nehru family? This is an attempt to politicise infrastructure projects in Mumbai,” Sena MLA and party spokesperson Subhash Desai told Hindustan Times.
Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi spoke about the need to develop Mumbai into a global city. She also spoke of the state and Central governments’ commitment to ensure infrastructure development in the metropolis.
The Congress president also lauded the state government’s effort to provide 10 lakh low-cost homes for economically backward sections of society.
Incidentally, the state government has decided not to charge toll on the sealink for the first five days.