Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan inaugurated India's first monorail in Mumbai on Saturday. The major new addition to the city's public transport system will be made available for public use on Sunday. (Read: 10-point cheatsheet to Mumbai monorail)
Just a few weeks ago, the new international terminal of the Mumbai airport was made operational. The Maharashtra government, which is up for re-election later this year, is ensuring that big new facilities are made available before the national election, due by May.
In his speech after the inauguration, Mr Chavan outlined the government's achievements in executing major infrastructure projects in the city and He hoped that Mumbai will again support the alliance and elect all six MPs from the Congress and the NCP.
The Chief Minister also said that with the completion of major projects like the Eastern Freeway (which is already operational), the monorail, the Versova-Ghatkopar Metro Corridor, the new airport terminal and the elevated road connecting it, and the Santa Cruz-Chembur Link Road will change the way Mumbai commutes.
But when questioned about whether his government was inaugurating these projects keeping the upcoming general elections and the Assembly elections later in the year, Mr Chavan told reporters, "It a fact these projects have been delayed but it has nothing to do with an election deadline. The project has to be completed on time."
The part that opens on Sunday is 8.93 km long and will run between Wadala and Chembur in the eastern fringes of Mumbai. The journey will take around 20 minutes and has seven stations. When the entire monorail project is completed, it will be 20 km long and connect Jacob Circle in south Mumbai to Chembur in eastern Mumbai. It will also add 11 more stations. (A journey on Mumbai's monorail: your first look)
Speaking at the event, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said, "Mumbaikars will now have to get used to airconditioned travel and ensure commuter discipline so that the doors close and the trains can run smoothly." He also rubbished rumours that the project inauguration was delayed but admitted that the government had tried to get the Prime Minister to inaugurate it.
While the Chief Minister said that the inauguration had nothing to do with elections, posters announcing the monorail inauguration had photos of top Congress-NCP leaders and their party symbols too.
But for Mumbaikars, who according to certain surveys spend a quarter of their lives commuting, these projects are a welcome relief, even if it is comes in election season.