Mumbai: India’s richest state will be governed by parties opposed to the nationalist party Bharatiya Janata of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, jeopardizing a bullet train project backed by the Japanese that the farmers oppose.
The BJP’s inability to gather voters in Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, has meant that three parties, including a former BJP ally, form the government. That is a big setback for Modi after his overwhelming victory in this year’s general elections.
It could also hamper the bullet train project, a $ 17 billion investment largely funded by a long-term, low-cost loan from Japan. The BJP was in power in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat when work began on the project in 2017.
“We have always opposed the bullet train,” said Manisha Kayande, spokesman for Shiv Sena, a former BJP ally whose leader is now ready to head Maharashtra. “Our state is giving a lot of money for the project, when most of the track is in another state. This will definitely be framed again.”
The train will pass from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, the main city in the state of Gujarat, at a distance of 508 kilometers (315 miles). But it has run into obstacles to acquiring land amid the opposition of fruit producers.
Any delay in the project is likely to weaken investor confidence, at a time when growth has slowed at its weakest pace in years.
Critics say that India does not need the high-speed train and the investment should go in place to improve the existing network.
“We are not against development or infrastructure projects, but at the same time the interests of farmers cannot be ignored. We will rethink the projects that farmers oppose,” said a senior leader of the Nationalist Congress Party , which is part of the coalition government.
National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL), the government agency that oversees the project, did not comment immediately.
Authorities have acquired 548 hectares of land out of the total 1,380 hectares required and the project was intended to be operational by 2023, the government told parliament in July.
Protests against land acquisition are common in India, where tens of millions of farmers cultivate small properties. A planned $ 44 billion refinery that will be managed by a consortium that includes Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, is also struggling to secure land in Maharashtra.
This story has been published from a cable agency source without modifications to the text. Only the owner has been changed.