Wednesday, Dec 25, 2002
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By Our Staff Reporter
The situation became both amusing and embarrassing as it all happened not only before the national political leaders and the media but also a large number of dignitaries from foreign countries.
Occasional cries of "Bharat Mata ki jai, Jai Shri Ram" and "Har Har Mahadev" by the saffron-clad BJP workers who had been called to the function by the new Chairman of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and former Delhi Chief Minister, Madan Lal Khurana, became a bit too much for Congress workers when the supporters of Mr. Khurana started shouting pro-BJP slogans as the Prime Minister and other dignitaries reached the venue by the first Metro train.
With a few supporters in the rear galleries, the Congress councillors took upon themselves the onus of getting heard. And soon shouts of "Rajiv Gandhi zindabad, Sonia Gandhi zindabad" and "Congress Party zindabad" rent the air.
The manner in which the two groups engaged in a verbal duel appeared to cause greater concern to the foreign invitees than to the securitymen and mediapersons who took it all with a smile.
But it did not take long for them to realise that the issue of taking credit for success of the Metro project was much more deep-rooted. Mr. Khurana used the occasion to claim that he was instrumental in getting the project moving something which the Congress Government has disproved to good effect.
He also pointed out how the Delhi Government under him had allotted funds for the project in 1994 and subsequently under Sahib Singh Verma the process of land acquisition was started in 1995.
Stating that under Sheila Dikshit, the Delhi Government had only flagged off the project in 1998, he demanded a proper integration of the bus, Metro and Ring Railway system as a means of providing an efficient transport system in Delhi.
Not one to let her opponents score brownie points, Ms. Dikshit in her forthright address said that with the Metro, "Rajiv Gandhi's dream for Delhi in the 21st century has been realised". She said "though it took a long time to plan the project, it took only four years (when her party was running the Delhi Government) to get the first section in operation".
It was the Delhi Government's cooperation that did not allow any obstacles to come in the way of the project as it went about its job of relocating and rehabilitating those who had to be removed for constructing the project, Ms. Dikshit asserted.
She demanded that there should be no politicisation of the project.
Delhi's Lieutenant-Governor, Vijai Kapoor, sought to credit the Central leadership for the success of the Metro. He said that with the commissioning of the Metro, a concept which Delhi had dreamt of since the 1950s, had become a reality. "For 40 years feasibility studies were carried out but it was only in 1995 that DMRC was formed and problems at ground level were overcome through the intervention by Group of Minister, headed by Mr. Advani.''
The GoM, he said, had also approved of the 23.1-km Barakhamba Road-Dwarka corridor after the Union Government declared Excise and Custom duty waivers of Rs 1,400 crores and Rs. 400 crores was waived in Sales Tax by the Delhi Government.
Though the construction of the Metro was delayed by a few years and could only be taken up on October 1, 1998, he said it had been absorbed in the total project time.
Still, carefully wording his speech, Mr. Kapoor described the Metro as a beautiful example of Centre-State coordination.
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