As MNS Chief didn't get confirmed tickets for Nagpur, CR attached a special coach to Vidarbha Express for Raj Thackeray & his entourage
Raj Thackeray left for Nagpur yesterday in a train for a court hearing and guess what he left in his wake? Extra berths.
Raj Thackeray inside the extra coach of Vidarbha Express at CST, on his way to Nagpur, yesterday
The MNS chief, who is to make an appearance in the Nagpur court in the case of beating up candidates appearing for railway exams in the state, approached Central Railway officials on Wednesday and asked them to attach a special first-class AC bogey to the Vidarbha Express for him and his convoy of nine men.
The railways, that had failed to provide him with 10 confirmed tickets two days prior to the departure of the train, conformed.
"On Wednesday, Raj's men met with top officials asking for 10 first-class AC tickets. They said Raj Thackeray wanted to travel by Vidarbha Express.
It's a special case and we have decided to add a special bogie for him and his men," said a senior railway official yesterday, adding, "He officially took 10 first-class AC tickets."
Normally, the Vidarbha Express runs with 23 bogeys. But yesterday was a special day. "We run the Vidarbha Express with 23 coaches but it will have 24 bogeys on Thursday because of Raj Thackeray.
This is not a normal practice. It's done on rare occasions, like Diwali or if a political session is going on. This time, though, we did it under emergency-quota booking," added the official.
The capacity of first-class AC is 10 berths in a train. But Vidarbha Express had 20 seats on Thursday.
Thackeray was supposed to enter the CST station at 6.30 pm from the main hall entrance last evening, and the railways had spent considerable energy cleaning up the premises.
But their efforts went unnoticed when the MNS chief made an entry from the back, which opens on to P D'mello Road.
"We had been instructed to clean the CST main line where he was supposed to make an entry. But we were upset when he took the backside entrance," said a CR official.
The bogey, fourth one from the Mumbai side, was attached at Mazgaon yard. The task was not a breeze for the railways. But to accommodate Thackeray, they made all the arrangements quickly.
"We were informed in the morning to add the additional coach with clean seats and curtains. We have been busy since morning preparing for the special coach," said a railway employee from Mazgaon yard.
The special bogey attached has been divided into first- and second-class AC. The first-class segment has been further segregated into a coupe and two cabins for Thackeray and his entourage, respectively.
The passageway connecting Thackeray's half to the second-class meant for the aam janta was sealed, and only one entrance was kept open for security reasons.
However, for all the trouble the railways took, passengers on the waiting list did enjoy the incidental benefit of extra berths.
Rakesh Agrawal, who had come to see off relatives, said his kin got confirmed seats just because of Thackeray. "We were not sure of getting confirmed tickets.
But I was surprised to see that my relative will be sharing a bogie with Raj Thackerey," Agrawal said.
RPF officials and other policemen escort MNS leader Raj Thackeray and his entourage to the special bogey at CST station. One of his aides carries Thackeray's luggage to his coach
Hush, it's a secret
But the railways and the MNS denied that Thackeray was accorded any special treatment.
Officials refused to make any comment on the matter, claiming that it was sensitive and controversial. Apparently, it was meant to be top-secret, sources revealed.
The CR spokesperson, V A Malegaonkar, said, "Even a normal passenger can book a full bogie for a round trip by paying for all the berths with some additional charges."
Railway sources, however, revealed that Thackeray didn't pay any surcharge. "He just paid for the 10 tickets, and received the additional coach," a source said.
Cost of a first-class AC train ticket to Nagpur
The MNS chief, Raj Thackeray, stays close to Dadar station. But he boarded the train from CST terminal to avoid the rush. "The train halts for just a few minutes at Dadar and he wanted to board the train peacefully. He arrived half an hour before the scheduled departure and also gave media interviews in his coupe," an MNS worker said.
The Other Side
Nitin Sardesai, general secretary, MNS, said, "He has gone for a routine appearance at Nagpur court for the case involving students giving railway exams in the state. He has not been given any special treatment from the railways. He went there as any normal passenger."
Divisional Railway Manager MC Chauhan also accepted that a special bogie had been attached, but chose to keep the details to himself. "We attach additional coaches sometimes to clear the extra rush," he said.