T’PURAM/KOCHI: Sensing the risks involved in going ahead with the inauguration of the Kochi Metro in the absence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the state government on Friday clarified an inaugural date for the metro’s commissioning had not been finalised.
“We have invited the Prime Minister who, we understand, is keen to find a suitable date in his hectic schedule for the purpose. The announcement that the inauguration will be held on May 30 had been made owing to some misunderstanding. No date has been finalised. We are, in fact, awaiting a suitable date from the Prime Minister’s Office,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in Kannur.
The state government initially wanted the Kochi Metro inauguration to coincide with its first anniversary celebrations scheduled between May 21 and June 5. Earlier in the day, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, the chairman of the Cabinet sub-committee tasked with organising the LDF Government’s anniversary celebrations, told mediapersons the Kochi Metro inauguration was slated on May 30.
He said the date was only tentative and the exact date will be finalised after ensuring the Prime Minister’s availability.On whether the inauguration will be put on hold if the Prime Minister was unavailable, Kadakampally said postponing the inauguration indefinitely was not possible.
He also indicated the Chief Minister may have to carry out the inauguration if the Prime Minister was unavailable for a longer period.
Kadakampally’s comments drew swift, angry reactions from the state’s BJP leaders, who alleged a “political conspiracy” behind the government’s decision to schedule the metro inauguration on a date that was inconvenient for the Prime Minister. BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan criticised the government saying it was rushing with the metro launch without first getting a confirmation from the Prime Minister’s Office.
“The state government should have fixed the programme on a day convenient for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is keen on attending the inaugural function. But since he will be on foreign tour from May 29 to June 4, he will be available only after June 5,” Kummanam said.
“The Prime Minister’s Germany-Spain-Russia visit was scheduled a month ago. Still, the state government decided to fix the inauguration date on its anniversary to deliberately avoid the Prime Minister’s presence,” he said.
KMRL steers clear of row
The Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL), which owns the project, chose to stay away from the controversy. “The government itself needs to give a further clarification in this regard. The Chief Minister is in charge of the state railways portfolio and we have not heard anything from his office so far,” KMRL’s official spokesperson said.
“The Chief Minister is scheduled to visit the metro yard in Aluva in the coming days. He had informed us earlier there was no need to rush the commissioning of the project,” the spokesperson said.
In the evening, Surendran himself sought to put the matter to rest by saying his words were tweaked by some media outlets which triggered the controversy. “The exact date of the metro’s commissioning will only be announced based on the Prime Minister’s availability and convenience,” he said.
"The government itself needs to give a further clarification in this regard. The Chief Minister is in charge of the state railways portfolio and we have not heard anything from his office so far. The Chief Minister is scheduled to visit the metro yard in Aluva in the coming days. He had informed us earlier there was no need to rush the commissioning of the project," KMRL’s official spokesperson said.