Kolkata got its second metro line on Thursday, 36 years after the country's first underground connectivity system came into being in the city, but the event came under the shadow of political acrimony with the ruling Trinamool Congress boycotting it.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal flagged off the first phase of the East-West corridor of the mass rapid transport network but the TMC gave the event a miss protesting against the absence of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's name from the invitation card for the programme.
The first phase of the East-West Metro corridor connecting the Sector V of Salt Lake, the IT hub of the city, with the Salt Lake Stadium in the area.
The inaugural train zoomed off from Sector V station to traverse a 4.88-km distance to the Stadium, as Goyal said that the entire 16.5-km stretch of the corridor - till Howrah Maidan - is likely to be completed in two years.
"The entire stretch of the East-West Metro corridor from Sector V to Howrah Maidan is likely to be completed in two years, provided bottlenecks affecting it are cleared through local support," Goyal said in his speech.
Commercial services, connecting six overground stations - Sector V, Karunamoyee, Central Park, City Centre, Bengal Chemical and Salt Lake Stadium stations - will commence on Friday.
Obliquely blaming the Trinamool Congress government for the delay in completion of work on the East-West Metro corridor, Goyal said, "Though work on the project started in 2009, it was stalled from 2012 to 2015 on the pretext of route realignment."
He said that his predecessor, Suresh Prabhu, had taken care of the realignment work, following which construction on the stretch resumed.
"The delay also caused cost escalation," Goyal said, adding that Rs 6,500 crore have so far been spent for the East-West Metro project.
The TMC leadership boycotted the inauguration programme after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's name was found missing from the invitation card for the programme.
Senior TMC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, state Fire Services Minister Sujit Bose and Bidhanagar Municipal Corporation Chairperson Krishna Chakraborty were invited to the event but stayed away from it.
"The East-West Metro corridor project was the brainchild of Mamata Banerjee during her tenure as the railway minister from 2009-2011. It was Banerjee who had sanctioned money (for the project) in Railway budget. Now, when the project is being inaugurated, she has not been invited. This is an insult to Banerjee and the people of Bengal," Dastidar told PTI.
Echoing similar sentiments, Bose said, "Why should we attend the event when our chief minister has not been invited? The BJP should refrain from such petty politics."
Railway officials, however, declined to comment on the matter.
Defending the decision to not invite the CM, state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said, the TMC is "paying for its past sins".
"During the Left rule, Mamata Banerjee as the railway minister had not invited the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya to a number of events. So they (TMC) should be the last to talk about courtesy," Ghosh said.
The Metro project, scheduled to be completed by June 2021, had faced an unprecedented jolt last year, when a tunnel-boring machine hit an aquifer in Bowbazar area of the city, causing severe ground subsidence and damage to several buildings.
The accident further delayed the completion of work by another year, with the authorities now eyeing a 2022 deadline.
Goyal said that the first underground station of the Metro corridor - Phoolbagan - would be ready within three to four months and services will be extended by October.
"Other Metro railway projects in the city are also getting affected owing to land issues. They need more cooperation of the state government," he insisted.
The five ongoing Metro railway projects in the city have been allotted a budgetary grant of Rs 1,542 crore for fiscal 2020-21.
The East-West Metro corridor has received a grant of Rs 905 crore -- the highest among the five projects currently underway in Kolkata.
The New Garia-NSCBI Airport link, slated to be completed by June 2021, has been allotted Rs 328 crore, while the Noapara-Barasat line has received a grant of Rs 200 crore.
Another 16.6-km Joka-BBD Bag route, connecting the south-eastern suburbs of Behala with the heart of the city, has been granted Rs 99 crore, and the Barrackpore-Baranagar and Dakshineswar stretch, covering a distance of 14.5 km, allotted Rs 10 crore.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)