Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government faces stinging opposition to its decision to hike railway fares from various parties across the country, it is now also seeing growing resentment within its own party, with the Maharashtra BJP unit also demanding a rollback.
Madhav Bhandari, chief spokesperson for the Maharshtra unit of BJP, told International Business Times India Edition that party leaders had conveyed their concerns about the fare hike to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was in Mumbai two days ago, and the unit is now set to send a delegation to Delhi this week to take their demand further.
"We are pressing for a rollback of the rail fare hike announced by the Centre last week. We explained to Rajnath Singh the troubles that people in Mumbai will face as they commute by train every day," Bhandari told IB Times. "Commuters on the suburban railway will see a hike of more than 100%," he added.
In a decision that raked severe criticism, the Railway Ministry on 20 June announced a passenger fare hike of 14.2 percent and a hike in freight charges by 6.5 percent, to be effective from 25 June. The Rail Budget is set to be announced on 8 July, as per news reports, a day after the Budget session is expected to begin in the Parliament.
"Several of our leaders have already expressed our concern personally to Rajnath Singh when he was in Mumbai and have explained the situation. If not a complete rollback, the Centre must at least give concessions on suburban railways as it is used by commuters daily," Bhandari explained.
"We are also planning to send a delegation to Delhi to meet the Railway Minister and the Finance Minister soon, probably by this week. Since we are not in the opposition, we have the opportunity to discuss the matter directly with the ministers," he said.
Apart from the Maharashtra BJP unit, Shiv Sena, an ally of the party, has also slammed the hike. "The Railway Minister has run a train over the public by increasing fares," party chief Uddhav Thackeray wrote in his party editorial magazine, Saamna.
About 75 lakh Mumbaiites travel by the suburban railways, either Western or Central Railways, every day.
The Modi-government faced criticism from all quarters over its decision, with parties such as the Indian National Congress, Janata Dal (United), Communist Party of India (M), AIADMK and several others demanding a rollback.
The hike is being seen as the 'first dose' of the 'bitter medicine' that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had warned about earlier, referring to the need for his government to take stringent measures to boost the economy.