As the Chennai Metro Rail chugs along, parties seek to claim credit

Chennai, April 19: Rewind to last June. No sooner had Chennai Metro Rail’s first service between Koyambedu and Alandur opened, both the Dravidian parties hurried to take credit for launching the project.

The barricades at CMRL constructions sites were plastered with posters of parties with images of their respective leaders and the blue bodied train indicating they were responsible for bringing the project to the city. In subsequent days, DMK treasurer M.K. Stalin and DMDK chief Vijayakant were among the leaders who took a joyride.

Cut to the present. As the State gears up for the Assembly polls, the Dravidian majors are not only taking credit but are also promising more. While Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has promised to implement the second phase, the DMK in its election manifesto has gone one step further. It plans to extend the Metro up to Mamallapuram along the IT Expressway, and construct another line up to Sriperumbudur via Irungattukottai and Oragadam, networking the city’s core manufacturing areas.

Talking to The Hindu, DMK treasurer M.K. Stalin says that he is committed to expand the Metro Rail to all parts of Chennai and introduce it in other major cities also.

In fact, the CMRL achieved financial closure within the first year it was proposed by securing 59 per cent funding from the Japanese International Co-operation Agency in November 2008. After the AIADMK came to power, the focus shifted to Monorail, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s pet project.

“The AIADMK government tried its best to stall the project; if not for the obstacles they created, a major part of the first phase may have been completed by now,” says Mr. Stalin. The government started working overtime to finish the second phase immediately after Phase-1 was inaugurated by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

“Probably, the Chief Minister realised the importance of the Metro as a mass transit system after inaugurating it,” says a senior bureaucrat involved in the project.

While the Monorail has no takers, the Metro’s second phase is falling in line with the detailed project report and will be ready by the time the next government steps in, officials say.

“It is good that the politicians are taking credit for the Metro Rail. It needs to expand real fast as it can make a difference to mass transport in the city,” says a Metro Rail official, adding that the DMK, the Congress, and the AIADMK can all claim credit.

In future, the BJP can also take credit as the Centre will have to contribute a lot to the Chennai Metro project in the coming years, he points out.