Wherever he is, Raj Thackeray usually occupies the driver’s seat. While travelling by Central Railway (CR) yesterday, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief chose to go with an AC coach, all for himself and three party colleagues. What’s more, it was an add-on. A year ago MiD DAY had reported (‘Raj ka raj on Central Railway’, Feb 25, 2011) about how after he didn’t get confirmed tickets for Nagpur, CR attached a special AC coach to Vidarbha Express for Raj Thackeray and his entourage. The network repeated its generosity on Tuesday.
Raj is now in Nagpur with other party members Bala Nandgaonkar, Nitin Sardesai and Anil Shidore. On Wednesday, Avinash Abhyankar, another party colleague, will join the team, which will then proceed to Chandrapur. “Saheb has gone to Chandrapur for a tiger conservation campaign and will also look into problems faced by the residents and other people in the area. Despite knowing that the temperature there is nearly 48 degrees, he decided to visit the place,” said a party worker, who didn’t wish to be named.
According to some MNS workers, they had booked the tickets for the trip on CR 15 days ago. But railway sources say that is not the case.
“The tickets were booked, but not 15 days earlier. The tickets were given for confirmation. The headquarters sent us a letter asking us to attach an extra coach for AC first class. The instruction was to assign an additional bogie for wait-listed passengers,” said a senior CR official, on the condition of anonymity.
On a normal day, Vidarbha Express runs with 23 coaches. But on some particular days, like during a parliament session, a special bogie is attached. “There was no such situation, neither was it an emergency. Also, the train wasn’t overbooked. But instructions were floated to attach an extra coach,” informed the official.
The bogie added was placed fourth from the engine and next to another AC coach. The CST entrance was cleaned for the occasion and Raj and his team entered from the backside of the station at 6.15 pm. The MNS chief seemed in a jovial mood and was seen joking with photographers. Many passengers at the platform, who had gathered to catch a glimpse of Raj, were amused to find out about the special coach. “This is a very sad situation in India. Some people get so much importance, but we, the citizens, are always neglected. We always have to request to get our tickets confirmed or have to stand in a queue since 3 in the morning,” said Ram Singh, a commuter.
The other side
Vidyadhar Malegaonkar, chief PRO, Central Railway, denied attaching an extra bogie to Vidarbha Express. “This is wrong. We have not attached any additional coaches. There are 23 bogies on the train. You can count if you want,” he told this reporter. On following his counsel, we found that there indeed were 24 coaches on the locomotive. Sachin More, vice-president of MNS students’ wing, who has organised this trip, said, “Raj saab has gone to Chandrapur with three other members of the party.” However, he denied demanding a special bogie for his party members. “We booked the tickets 15 days ago for a first-class
AC coach,” he said.