The Centre laying claim to the site in Mumbai where a Metro car shed has been planned has led to a fresh round of war of words between Maharashtra's ruling coalition and the Bharatiya Janata Party with a minister asserting on Tuesday the land belongs to the state and ruled out project relocation.
State minister Nawab Malik said the Centre has written to the Maharashtra chief secretary, saying the proposed Metro-3 car shed land in suburban Kanjurmarg belongs to it, as he accused the opposition BJP of conspiring to stall the project through the Union government.
However, BJP MLA Ashish Shelar hit back, saying the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government was creating a 'delusion' about its functioning and slowing down major infrastructure projects.
Speaking to reporters in Nagpur, Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil said the land in question, a salt pan, indeed belongs to the Central government.
Moreover, constructing the car shed on the salt pan lands will endanger the environment, Patil said.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray last month announced the scrapping of the Metro car shed at Aarey in suburban Goregaon, a green belt, which was chosen by the erstwhile BJP-led government for the train parking project.
Thackeray had said the project will now be shifted to a government land in Kanjurmarg and no additional cost will be incurred for the purpose.
Malik said the letter sent by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) to Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar on the issue contends the land has been allotted for the car shed project in a 'wrong manner'.
The Nationalist Congress Party minister said the salt pan land concerned belongs to the state and the project will take shape on that site only.
"Initially, people in the BJP said it is a private land. Now, the Centre is saying (in the letter) that the salt pan land belongs to it," Malik said.
"Seeing all this, it seems the BJP people want to lay roadblocks in the Metro works," the NCP national spokesperson said in a video message.
"The Kanjurmarg car shed will merge two lines of Mumbai, a car shed that will benefit 20 lakh people. It is clear now that the BJP has started conspiring on how to stop it through the Centre," alleged Malik, whose party is a key constituent in the Shiv Sena-led MVA government.
Malik said as per his information, the Centre had in 2002 transferred several salt pan lands to the state government.
"It is our governments land...The previous government had affirmed it. The car shed will come up there only," the minister asserted.
Talking to reporters, NCP's Lok Sabha member Supriya Sule also insisted that the land belongs to Maharashtra.
"It is unfortunate. The Centre is intervening in the development of Maharashtra. This is injustice to Maharashtra," she alleged.
However, BJP MLA Shelar, in a statement, questioned the state government's intention shifting the Metro-3 car shed to the Kanjurmarg land.
The land in question comes under the jurisdiction of the salt commissioner, a central government functionary, said Shelar.
There is no information in public domain that the state has received this piece of land from the department concerned (DPIIT) for construction of the Metro-3 car shed, the BJP leader said.
"Is there any hidden agenda of the state on salt pans in the name of shifting the car shed to Kanjurmarg? It looks like this government is creating a delusion about its functioning and, in fact, slowing down major infrastructure projects," Shelar alleged.
State BJP president Patil said former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has been repeatedly saying that the Kanjurmarg land not only belongs to the Central government but it is also a salt pan.
"It is good that you want to save Aarey forest, but you will be creating the car shed on salt pan land, which will take two years and also raise question over the durability of its foundation given the nature of the land.
"Similarly, destroying the salt pan will damage the environment," Patil said.
All salt pans are property of the central government, said Patil, who was a minister in the Fadnavis cabinet.
"During our tenure, we had requested the central government for a parcel of land for affordable homes for Mumbaikars from this patch (in Kanjurmarg). But due to environmental concerns, the housing project was not found to be feasible," said Patil.
To a query on state Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant's statement that the Kanjurmarg land belongs to the state government, Patil said it is a very technical subject.
"I was the revenue minister of Maharashtra (in BJP government) and as per my knowledge, the central government has ownership over salt pans," Patil said.