Centre-Maha tussle on special trains rages
Hours after chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday said the railway ministry is providing half the amount of trains required to ferry labourers back to their home states, Union railway minister Piyush Goyal tweeted back saying they were ready to send 125 trains, provided they do not run “empty” and also sought a list of passengers.Updated: May 26, 2020 01:32 IST
The tussle between the Centre led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Maharashtra government led by the Shiv Sena over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic flared up on Sunday and Monday.
Hours after chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday said the railway ministry is providing half the amount of trains required to ferry labourers back to their home states, Union railway minister Piyush Goyal tweeted back saying they were ready to send 125 trains, provided they do not run “empty” and also sought a list of passengers.
This, in turn, led to a war of words between Goyal and Sena MP Sanjay Raut, with the latter saying the Centre needs to change its mindset about Maharashtra and see it as a state and not an Opposition government.
In an address to the state on Sunday, the Maharashtra CM said he had demanded 80 Shramik trains per day to ferry migrants home, but got only around 40. Goyal then on Twitter asked Thackeray to send the list of passengers with their medical certificate, details such as boarding station, etc, in the next one hour. “Sadly, it has been 1.5 hours but Maharashtra Govt. has been unable to give required information about tomorrow’s planned 125 trains to GM of Central Railway. Planning takes time & we do not want train to stand empty at the stations, so it’s impossible to plan without full details.”
The war of words continued on Monday with Goyal seeking the list. “Where is the list for 125 trains from Maharashtra? As of 2am, received list of only 46 trains of which 5 are to West Bengal and Odisha which cannot operate due to cyclone Amphan. We are notifying only 41 trains for today despite being prepared for 125!!!,” he tweeted.
Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis also said, “A constant attempt is being made to blame the Centre for the state’s failures. The Centre is always willing to help.”
Coming to the defence of Thackeray, Raut said that earlier trains have left Maharashtra without passenger list. “Many trains have left Maharashtra from Nagpur and Pune without any list. We have that list. If they come out of the mindset that Maharashtra has an opposition government and think of it as a state, the question of seeking lists won’t arise,” Raut told reporters in Mumbai.
On Monday afternoon, Raut tweeted: “Piyush ji, what list was sought for Nagpur-Udhampur train that left on May 14, 20. Please share what efforts have been taken to arrange trains first and then to gather passengers? Now which list are you seeking? Don’t forget that you represent Maharashtra in Rajya Sabha.”
He further said, “The Maharashtra government has given a list to the railway ministry. There is only one request to Piyush Goyal ji, the trains should reach the destination. The train going to Gorakhpur should not reach Odisha instead.”
Raut was referring to last week’s incident where hundreds of labourers travelling to Uttar Pradesh landed in Rourkela in Odisha. The railways later claimed it was a planned diversion on account of congestion.
The Thackeray-led government had sought trains for migrants during the first phase of the lockdown and has consistently claimed the Centre’s delay in starting the trains led to migrants taking to roads to head back to their home states. There have also been claims and counter claims between the state and the Centre indirectly over footing the bill for the train journeys.
Thackeray, in his address, made a veiled reference at it. “We are yet to get the money for the trains. It will come, but we are not waiting for it. We have footed the bill, so the migrant labourers can go back home,” said Thackeray.
The war of words comes on the heels of the state BJP’s ‘Maharashtra Bachao’ protest against the Thackeray-led government for “failing to tackle the pandemic”. This had led to a social media tussle between the BJP and MVA allies last week, with the latter terming the Opposition as “Maharashtra Drohi”. The Sena had slammed the BJP for playing politics during a crisis, with Thackeray reiterating it during his live address on Sunday.
On Monday, BJP MP Narayan Rane also met governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to call for President’s rule in Maharashtra over “the state government’s failure and breakdown of public health machinery”.
Pawar meets Governor
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar called on Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan on Monday morning. The meeting assumes significance in the backdrop of the strained relationship between ruling parties in the state and Raj Bhavan.
Senior party leader and former Union minister Praful Patel, who was present at the meeting, said, “It was a courtesy meeting. No political issues were discussed,” he said.
There have been frequent tiffs between the Governor and Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress in the past six months of the government and even during the formation of the government last year. Ruling parties expect a truce between them after the meeting between Koshyari and Pawar.
On Saturday, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut called on the Governor and had a discussion for over 30 minutes.