CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has given a jolt to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s enthusiasm regarding the K-Rail project.
Speaking to the media in Delhi on Wednesday for the first time after getting a third and final term in the post, Yechury asked how a green signal can be given to “a train which is yet to arrive”.
Yechury’s tone and tenor on K-Rail contradicted his position when he was attending the Congress.
At Kannur he had said Kerala needs such a project, but in Delhi he gave a different statement.
Incidentally, Vijayan at the party congress had said that everything has been cleared for the project, but this volte-face from Yechury, according to sources, has left him a bit concerned.
This comes at a time when the Congress-led UDF has announced a massive protest against K-Rail and the state BJP has decided to observe May 20, the first anniversary of the Vijayan government as a day of protest at the Secretariat — the seat of the Vijayan government.
If completed, the K-Rail project will see a 529.45 km corridor connecting Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargod with semi-high speed trains covering the distance in around four hours.
Both the Congress and the BJP say this project is not needed for Kerala given the massive cost which they say will be in excess of Rs 1.50 lakh crore and would be an environmental and economic disaster, besides being a huge burden on the future generation.
The state has been witnessing protests ever since the K-Rail authorities started conducting a social impact assessment study and at numerous places clashes broke out between the protesters and police.
But after April 6 till April 10 when the party congress was on, instructions had gone out to the K-Rail officials not to venture out to lay the marking stones, as Vijayan and the party did not wish to create a bad image during the meeting.
And with the first salvo being fired by Yechury, as and when the laying of the marking stones are going to be resumed, it could lead to more problems. The protests may increase, especially from those whose lands might be taken away for the project.
But with Vijayan determined that this project will go forward, all eyes are on how the Vijayan-Sitaram tussle on the project is going to take shape. Also, there has been opposition to this from the Bengal wing of the party, whose fortunes disappeared forever after the Nandigram fiasco.
A media critic on condition of anonymity said even though Vijayan continues to have an iron grip over the party at all levels, the coming days are going to be crucial.
“With the principal opposition parties now against this and silent protests beginning within the ruling Left Democratic Front, with the CPI and Loktantrik Janata Dal, making their guarded response, all eyes are on the statement of Yechury and on what its impact is going to be. Those opposed to the project are going to take advantage of this,” said the critic.