Mumbai sea bridge to be named after Rajiv Gandhi, opposition upset


Mumbai : India’s first sea bridge in this financial capital will be named after former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan announced here, upsetting several opposition parties in the state.

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The move to name the sea link between the main island and its suburbs after Gandhi came in response to a surprise demand to this effect by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). However, state opposition parties thought they should have been consulted on this.

“Rajiv Gandhi was born in Mumbai, he was a son of the soil and it will be appropriate that the bridge be named after him,” Pawar said in his speech at an inaugural function.

Amidst thunderous applause, Chief Minister Chavan accepted Pawar’s suggestion and made the announcement on the dais at the Rang Sharda Auditorium, Worli, where the official inauguration function was held after the bridge was thrown open by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson and Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi.

Called the Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL), the 5.6-km bridge on the Arabian Sea cost Rs.1,634-crore ($16.34 billion) and the authorities hope some 150,000 vehicles will use it each day for a toll that ranges between Rs.50 and Rs.100 per trip based on the size of the automobile.

The Maharashtra chief minister’s prompt acceptance of Pawar’s suggestion to name the sea bridge after Rajiv Gandhi immediately stirred controversy as opposition parties said they should have been consulted over this.

Criticising the decision, Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Bharat Raut said it was a long-standing demand of the Sena to name the sea bridge after revolutionary leader Veer Savarkar.

“It would have been appropriate for the state government to consult all political parties over naming the country’s first sea bridge before unilaterally announcing any name,” Raut said.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde too felt the sea link should have been named after Savarkar.

“If not Savarkar, they could have considered other prominent historical figures for naming the bridge,” he said.

Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe wondered what the urgency was to name it after Rajiv Gandhi.

“There are thousands of places and institutions already named after him. It would have been better if the government had considered the name of a Maharashtra leader, saint or historical figure for the bridge,” Gorhe said.

Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), at the forefront of the sons-of-the-soil agitation in the state, also expressed its reservations over the bridge’s name.

MNS spokesman Shirish Parker said that though Rajiv Gandhi’s contribution to the country’s progress and modernization was not in doubt at all, the state government could have considered many other options for naming the bridge.