Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray attacked Narendra Modi over the stampede that took place at Elphistone Road railway station in Mumbai last week, asking the prime minister "how long will he (the prime minister) continue to tell lies" to the country.
Addressing a rally on Thursday, after taking out a massive procession to the Western Railways headquarters at Churchgate station, to demand better facilities for Mumbai commuters after last week's stampede killed 23 commuters, Thackeray said the country was being pushed into crises on all fronts, brought about by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in New Delhi.
"Modi has been lying and misleading the people of this country. Now I realise that when I visited Gujarat a few years ago at the behest of (industrialist) Ratan Tata when Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, I was shown a misleading picture of the development there," Thackeray said.
He also gave the railway authorities 15 days to clear all foot-over bridges on Mumbai's suburban railway network. "Within 15 days, we want all hawkers to be cleared from all foot-over bridges. If the Railways can't do it, we will do it in 'MNS style'," Thackeray warned.
If the officials can't do this, he threatened to take out another rally. "If they don't do it, my next rally will not be as peaceful," Thackeray said.
He attacked the government for failing infrastructure, and said the main reason for this sorry state of affairs is that the government has its focus on the wrong things. "The government is focussing on all the wrong things. From demonetisation to GST to Swachh Bharat to yoga, the things it chooses to tackle are unnecessary. They should instead provide the people what they actually need," Thackeray said.
He reiterated that the people of the country have lost faith in Modi, who "only keeps giving speeches daily". "How much is he going to speak?" Thackeray asked, further urging people to speak out against the government. "The Opposition will rise against the government," he warned.
He specifically targeted the government over the ambitious Bullet Train project, saying it's precisely the kind of expensive investment the country doesn't need. "Who will really benefit from a Bullet Train? It's not going to be of much help for most everyday commuters. It was taken up by the government for the benefit of a handful of Gujaratis," Thackeray said.
Instead of splurging money on a Bullet Train, the authorities should have spent more money on fixing safety and security in Mumbai, the MNS chief said. "In Mumbai, safety is so bad that when a person leaves home in the morning, his family doesn't know if s/he will come back home. The infrastructure has remained the same for decades," he said.
Over 15,000 MNS supporters attended the protest rally, which started at 1.30 pm, two hours after its original schedule. There were a significant majority of women who participated in the rally. Raj Thackeray's wife Sharmila and MNS office bearers across Maharashtra accompanied the MNS chief. Officials of the Rail Pravasi Sangh from Western and Central Railway were also present, and also were part of the delegation that met general managers of the two undertakings.
With inputs from Sanjay Sawant and IANS
Updated Date: Oct 05, 2017 17:52 PM