MUMBAI ~ The Latur Express, a train operated by the Central Railways from Mumbai to Latur in central Maharashtra, has triggered an ego clash between two Congress heavyweights. So much so that the matter has reached the doorstep of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, say sources in the party.
The tussle over the train began about five years ago between Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan, both former Maharashtra chief ministers. After Deshmukh passed away last year, the battle has been spearheaded by his son and political heir Amit Deshmukh, who is an MLA from Latur. Chavan is an MLA from Nanded, another Congress bastion.
The dispute centres around the train’s terminating point. Chavan wants the train to go up to Nanded. Deshmukh wants it to end at Latur. The train was flagged off in 2005 during Vilasrao Deshmukh’s chief ministerial tenure. In the absence of flights to central Maharashtra, this train is popular with VIPs from the region.
When Deshmukh was elevated to the Union Cabinet in 2009, Chavan took over the reins in Maharashtra. Citing public demand, he extended the train’s services till Nanded. That’s when the problems started. So packed was the train on its return journey from Nanded that when it reached Latur, people in its unreserved and second class compartments found it difficult to find seats.
While Chavan basked in his triumph, Deshmukh fumed. Complaints from his home base mounted. So he used his clout as a Union minister and ensured that the train terminated at Latur. People from Nanded called for a bandh. In response, Latur citizens took to the streets and ensured a bandh in the city this February. Dhananjay Bhemade, a hotelier from Latur, says, “There are many trains between Nanded and Mumbai. This train is very convenient to Latur.”
Chavan, who is currently out of favour at 10 Janpath, has vowed to get the route extended till Nanded again. Chavan and Amit Deshmukh were unavailable for comment.▪