Gandhinagar: Back in Gujarat where he had laid the foundation stone for the bullet train last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday took a quick swipe at the many critics of the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed train being built.
Speaking at a function to formally dedicate the IIT Gandhinagar building to the nation, PM Modi recalled that he had, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, allotted 400 acres in the state capital for its campus in 2011.
Had this decision to allot land been announced during elections, "some people would have gone all out to criticise me... the way they criticise bullet trains these days", PM Modi said, suggesting that much of the criticism that he had faced over the high-speed train was linked the Gujarat elections scheduled for last this year.
"They would have said Modi, a primary school building in Gujarat is in a bad shape and you are spending money on building an IIT. They would have definitely criticised. But it was good there were no elections around then," he said, calling his decision to allot land for the IIT campus a visionary decision.
PM Modi's jibe was aimed at the opposition. The Congress had been loudest critic of the bullet train when PM Modi, stood next to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe last month, to lay the foundation stone for the ambitious Rs. 1.10 lakh crore project.
"This is nothing but an 'electoral (chunavi) bullet train'," Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge had told reporters.
The stampede at Mumbai's Elphinstone railway station that killed 23 people on 29 September had put the spotlight back on the big-ticket project.
The Congress had renewed its attack, calling it an example of the government's "misplaced priorities". The BJP's ally Shiv Sena had also taunted the government for being able to find crores of rupees for the bullet train to be used by the rich but couldn't fix a decades-old bridge that was to be used by poor people.
Soon enough, Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackrey also weighed in, warning that he would not allow "a single brick" to be placed for the bullet train in Mumbai until the infrastructure of local railways was made better.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar had also questioned the wisdom of the high-speed train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, calling it "impractical".