MUMBAI: A Shiv Sena MLA and his supporters allegedly held up an Express train at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus here for almost an hour seeking a berth of his choice and later justified his act saying it was meant to expose "unprofessional approach of railway officials" towards the grievances of passengers.
The incident occurred last night when Hemant Patil, a legislator from Nanded, did not allow 9:10 PM Devgiri Express to depart till 10 PM by repeatedly pulling the chain after he got upset over being alloted a 'side' berth in a second AC coach.
Apart from inconveniencing nearly 2,000 passengers of the train, the incident affected schedule of at least two long-distance trains.
Though the MLA stuck to his demand that he be given a berth of his choice, the railway officials refused to oblige.
According to a senior railway officer, this act of Patil is a serious offence under the Railway Act.
Giving a new twist to the controversy, Patil said MLAs like him were allotted side berths whereas other passengers the lower berths which they "secured by buying tickets from a racket of agents".
"The coach was attached especially for the MLAs, but we were surprised to find out that almost all MLAs were given side berths while those who got tickets through agents were occupying lower berths," he told PTI from Nanded tonight.
The MLA said he asked the TC to call senior railway officers as he wanted to know why senior representatives like Suryakanta Patil, Jai Prakash Mundada were not alloted lower berths.
"I was insisting the TC to call senior railway officers to which the guard did not give signal and the train was held up for almost 40 minutes," he said.
Patil said the incident was the fallout of the inaction on part of railway officials to resolve the issues raised by him.
"Since last 3 to 4 months, I have been writing to senior CR officers raising the issues of non-availability of tickets on Devgiri Express, old and rotten bed rolls, unhygienic toilets etc. but to no avail.
"These issues were discussed on the sidelines of recently concluded Assembly session in which senior railway officers were also invited. But all requests and demands made by us to CR were unanswered," the MLA said, adding that few agitations were held in Nanded in past on the quality of service on the train.
The MLA said what he did was not in his personal interest.
"The fight was not for my personal interest or (out of) any vengeance. I raked up this issue to bring to fore the lackadaisical and unprofessional approach of senior railway officers. I have got many complimentary messages on my phone appreciating my efforts," he said.
Meanwhile, CR officers demanded that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagde act against the public representative.
Sena is a member of the ruling BJP-led alliance in Maharashtra.