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Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. File photo: HT
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. File photo: HT

Shiv Sena, NCP to support stir against bullet train project

Shiv Sena and the NCP have agreed to attend a public meeting on 3 June in Palghar to oppose the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project

Mumbai: Political opposition to the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project is set to grow with leaders of the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) agreeing to attend a public meeting on 3 June in Palghar, Maharashtra, opposing the project.

The public meeting, Jan Manch, has been called by activists opposed to the bullet train project to express solidarity with the people who are likely to be affected by the project, according to Ulka Mahajan, of the Jan Manch.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and the NCP’s state unit chief Jayant Patil assured Mahajan last week that their parties would support the protest against the Rs1 trillion project that seeks to establish a bullet train corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

Around 110 of the villages that the bullet train corridor would pass through fall in Palghar district near Thane. The process to acquire land in 17 of these villages in the district has already started.

Earlier this month, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) disrupted the land acquisition process in Palghar. The MNS chief has opposed the bullet train from the start and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of promoting the business interests of the Gujarati community. Though MNS has not yet been approached by the Jan Manch for the 3 June protest meeting, the support by the Shiv Sena and the NCP adds to the political opposition to Modi’s dream project.

Mahajan argued that the bullet train could not be a priority for India as it involved huge expenditure in the form of debt. “Many farmers and tribals in Maharashtra and Gujarat are protesting against the project. Jan Manch has been organised to express solidarity with these people and also let the political parties explain their position on the project to these people. Both Uddhav Thackeray and Jayant Patil have assured us of support and participation in Jan Manch," Mahajan said.

Protests against the project have also assumed political significance in the context of the by-poll to the Palghar Lok Sabha seat that is to be held on 28 May. For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which held the seat before it fell vacant because of the demise of its MP Chintaman Wanga, the electoral battle became more significant after the Shiv Sena fielded Wanga’s son Shriniwas. The BJP has inducted former Congress legislator Rajendra Gawit into the party and fielded him from Palghar.

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