The CPM central leadership on Friday said it was on the same page with its Kerala unit on the K-Rail Silver Line semi-high-speed project, which is facing protests over environmental concerns and land acquisition.
A day after a section of the Malayalam media reported that there were differences between the state and central units of the party over the contentious railway project, the CPM central leadership came out in defence of K-Rail.
“There is no contradiction between the politburo and the state unit of the CPM. Do you understand that? I will tell you in any other language you want,” CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury told reporters in Kannur, where the party congress is underway.
The local media had reported Yechury as saying that the state government was “determined to go ahead with the project”, and interpreted this as a sign of difference over K-Rail. But Yechury rebuffed such an interpretation, saying: “There is nothing contradictory in
saying the state government is determined to go ahead with it.”
The Congress-led United Democratic Front and the BJP have predicted that Silver Line will prove costly for the Left alliance in Kerala, drawing parallels with the Nandigram agitation that played a big role in ending 34 years of communist rule in Bengal.
The 529km Silver Line, coming up at an estimated cost of Rs 64,000 crore, connects Thiruvananthapuram in the state’s south to Kasaragod in the north, aiming to cut travel time from 12 hours to under four hours. It is designed with just 11 stops, including the two terminuses.
The project has been beset by massive protests by Opposition parties and environmentalists who have voiced concern at the railway tracks cutting through fragile ecology and gobbling up thousands of houses and questioned its financial viability.
Senior politburo member from Kerala, S Ramachandran Pillai, vouched for the project and ruled out any difference of opinion.
“The state and central units of the CPM have the same stand on this. A group that doesn’t want development work to happen in Kerala is behind all these protests and political moves against the project. But we will convince the people (about the project’s viability),” Pillai told reporters in Kannur.
Politburo member Brinda Karat said the Kerala government was committed to the people’s interests and the railway project was necessary for the state.
“The LDF government of Kerala is committed to safeguard the interest of the people. They will take into account the voice of the people and it is on the basis of that the government has given assurances again and again. I don’t know what they (the Opposition) want to do. But certainly it’s not in the interest of Kerala,” she told a media briefing on Friday.
CPM state committee member P. Rajeev had on Thursday extolled the virtues of the project during a discussion on the draft political resolution to be adopted at the party congress. Party sources said he spoke about Silver Line being the perfect option for modern transport in the state.
The leader of the Opposition, V.D. Satheesan of the Congress, had on Wednesday written to Yechury seeking the CPM’s position, especially in view of its vehement objection to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project of the NDA government.
“It is ironic to note that the communist party which is opposed to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed railway is pushing for the semi-high-speed Silver Line project in Kerala,” the Congress leader had stated.
The Congress-led United Democratic Front on Friday decided to observe a statewide protest against the project from May 13 to 16. “If the government doesn’t scrap the project by August, we will organise a human chain on August 15 along the purported route of Silver Line,” UDF convenor M.M. Hassan told reporters.