The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) agitation against tolls in the state could increase the rift between the allies.
On Friday, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in an indirect snub to his cabinet colleague and public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal said more transparency was required in toll agreements and efforts for the same were being taken.
Chavan’s comments came even as Bhujbal said that the toll policy in Maharashtra was among the most transparent in the country and based entirely on central government norms.
“I am of the opinion that all the information should reach the public and therefore electronic systems are being deployed at toll collection booths,” said Chavan, on the sidelines of a function held in Pune.
However, Bhujbal told HT, “If MNS has complaints about fraudulent toll agreements or wrong doings, they should approach us and we are willing to address or even probe each of those complaints.”
Bhujbal said road widening proposals and resultant toll agreements were cleared as per estimates drawn by the Centre about approximate returns to be given to a private partner, vehicular traffic estimates, inflation, etc and went through scrutiny.
“It’s easy to campaign against tolls but what’s the alternative? If MNS agitates and stops tolls, the government may be forced to tax the common man.”
He also pointed out that neighbouring state of Gujarat, which is admired by MNS chief Raj Thackeray, also levied substantial tolls on its motorists.
NCP state party president Madhukar Pichad, also did not come to the aid of his party colleague Bhujbal on the issue. When asked about tolls, Pichad tried to deflect the issue by pointing out that the culture of tolls had been started by the saffron combine in 1995-96.
He said, “This is the legacy of the Shiv Sena and BJP government and I had criticised it as the leader of opposition.” He also added, “If there is a
lacunae it can be rectified. The government is ready to find a permanent solution to the issue.”