On January 29, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray unveiled the first driverless coach of the Mumbai Metro. This moment is significant in light of the controversy surrounding the future of the city’s three metro lines. The Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Agadi (MVA) government is in a legal battle with the Center over its acquisition of 210 acres of land in Kanchumarg where the Metro car depot is to be built.
During the inauguration of the coach, Thackeray described the Metro as the future attraction of Mumbai. "I was criticized for continuing to work, but that's not right. You can see a lot of public infrastructure work is being done," he said. Critics say Thackeray's enthusiasm is directly linked to the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) elections in February 2022. BMC is set to become the richest civic body in Asia with an annual budget of Rs 39,000 crore. The Shiv Sena has been a staunch supporter of the BMC since Uddhav made his electoral debut in 1997. Political observers now believe that the BJP, which has expanded its base in the city over the past two years, is facing a tough challenge. Years. Driverless coach Dahisar-DN Nagar Metro Line 2A and Dahisar-Andheri East Metro Line 7 will be opened in May.
Thackeray says the next 3-4 years will be important for the city as several metro corridors will be operational. Uddhav should hope that the Thackeray government will mobilize other urban infrastructure and beautification projects next year or so, which will show its commitment to the city ahead of the BMC vote. In addition, on a clear departure from his previous training, working primarily at his private / official residence, he now makes regular field visits. On December 27 last year, he inspected the construction of 29.2 km of coastal road. It connects South Mumbai with the North Sea. On January 11, he again visited a site in Priyadarshini Park in south Mumbai to launch a coastal road tunnel boring machine, which he named ‘Maula’ (a soldier in Shivaji’s army).
The road is expected to open in July 2023. Two days later, Thackeray reviewed two major urban projects, the Bandra-Versova Sea Link (BVSL) and the extension to Virar. The 4325 km ceiling will be completed by 2025 in two phases. If opened, travel time between Nariman Point in south Mumbai and Virar in Palghar district will be reduced from 90 km to one hour. One month after taking over as Chief Minister on November 28, 2019, Thackeray directed bureaucrats to focus on beautifying Mumbai. "If anyone sees Mumbai in bird's eye view, they will find cables hanging on the roads and dirty sidewalks," Thackeray, who is also a wildlife photographer, told a gathering. A facelift for the city is on the agenda, and many traffic islands, flyovers and bridges are getting a makeover.
The Chief Minister inaugurated the Heritage Walk on January 28 at the BMC building located in front of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, a World Heritage Site. The walk is designed as a tour of the historic building that has been in operation by the Mumbai government since 1885. The tour lasts one hour and includes a question and answer session at the end. Heritage tours are held on weekends, and citizens who are not allowed into restricted areas can book tickets for as little as 300 rupees. However, Uddhav's leap is BJP, and the BJP's rise can be gauged from the party's performance in the Assembly and the BMC elections.
In the 2019 elections, the party had 16 MLAs (out of 36), while the Sena retained 14 in 2014. In terms of the BMC polls, the BJP (82) lost just two seats in the 2017 elections, while the saffron party had only 32 members in the previous 2012 elections. With the BJP likely to form an alliance with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), another champion of Marathi votes, the 2022 BMC polls will test Thackeray's ability. "If the BJP does not oppose, we are ready for an alliance," said Bala Nandagavkar, the second-in-command of the MNS. If the party manages to slash the Shiv Sena's vote share, the BJP will gain and emerge as the largest single party.
Thackeray knows this. He has already started talks with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) about joining hands in the BMC elections. Observers say such an alliance would affect the Sena's Hindu support base. Mumbai Congress president Ashok Jagtapp has already made it clear that his party will go it alone in the elections. Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut saysthe party's position in Mumbai is stronger than ever: "Mumbai has always voted for the Shiv Sena. The next election will not be an exception. Atul Bhatkalkar of the BJP in charge of Mumbai has other ideas. "If Mumbai is to seek good governance, a change is needed," he says. "We are the only way out."
Thackeray may review his BMC strategy after the municipal corporation elections in Navi Mumbai, Rangabad, Kalyan-Dombivli, Vasai-Virar and Kolhapur. These are likely to take place in March. Uddhav is also trying to attract Gujarati voters in the city, sending hints that he is a comprehensive leader. If the army wins in Navi Mumbai and Urangabad corporations, he will continue his comprehensive politics. One failure may lead him back to his ‘Marathi Mana’s agenda.