NEW DELHI: The Congress party is worried that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project could push it further behind in the race to win the coming Gujarat elections.
The Congress party, which has been out of power in the western state for 19 years, is desperate for a comeback. Party sources acknowledged that the launch of the bullet train project could consolidate urban votes in the BJP’s favour. In the past elections, the Congress had failed to dent the BJP’s clout in urban areas.
Congress sources said the previous UPA dispensation could have moved fast on the bullet train project but added that the BJP timed the announcement with an eye on the Gujarat polls. Pointing out that the project was planned by the UPA in 2013, a year before it lost power at the Centre, Congress spokesperson RPN Singh asked why the NDA started it three years after coming to power.
Congress insiders said the party is concerned that Modi, who has sought to appropriate its icons like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and B R Ambedkar, was re-branding development projects as well. Singh said rather than high-speed trains, safety of regular trains was more important given the recent accidents.
Former railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge said the project would take a longer time to complete as the ground work, including land acquisition, was yet to start.
However, the Congress was also wary that being overly critical of development projects could further dent its image among the voters. “We are not against development. But the PM always links it to polls,” Kharge said.