NEW DELHI: The day after 22 commuters died in the Mumbai stampede at Elphinstone station bridge, Congress leader P Chidambaram scaled up the attack on the bullet train project, saying the high-speed train would, like demonetisation, "kill everything else including safety".
The former Finance Minister had earlier blamed demonetisation for the economic slowdown. A fortnight back, PM Modi had hosted Japanese Prime Minister in his home state Gujarat where the two leaders had laid the foundation for the project. Once the project is completed in 2023, the high-speed train can complete the 508 km distance between Ahmedabad and Mumbai in less than three hours.
"Bullet train is not for ordinary people. It is an ego trip for the high & mighty," Mr Chidambaram said in a series of tweets, taking a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is seen as the driving force behind the project.
BJP's disgruntled ally, the Shiv Sena was the first one to link the ambitious project, which will cost around Rs. 1.10 lakh crore, to the 22 deaths in the Mumbai stampede on the decades-old bridge.
"You let the poor passengers die...and for moneyed passengers, you talk about bullet trains," Sena lawmaker Sanjay Raut had said hours after the Mumbai stampede that he described as a "massacre".
The Congress, and Mr Chidambaram had picked up from where left Mr Raut left it.
"It is a time for mourning, but beyond the mourning lies the story of inverted priorities," the former minister said late last evening. He continued on Saturday.
"Railways should spend on safety, better infrastructure and better facilities. Not on bullet train," he said. Taunting Railways Minister Piyush Goyal for pledging to ramp up safety measures on the railways, Mr Chidambaram said the minister could take the pledge when Rs. 1 lakh crore is spent for rail safety, track upgrading, signalling and not for bullet train.
Last month, the former Finance Minister had also sought an apology from PM Narendra Modi for his "failed" decision to demonetise 500 and 1,000 rupee currency notes that led to 104 deaths last year.