Ahead of Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackerays scheduled visit to Ayodhya on March 7, a special train carrying members of his party Shiv Sena departed for the temple town in Uttar Pradesh from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai on Thursday afternoon.
Thackeray, who is also the Sena president, is slated to visit Ayodhya on Saturday to offer prayers to Lord Ram to mark the completion of 100 days in office of his Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
Thackeray, who assumed office on November 28, 2019, is visiting Ayodhya weeks after the Centre constituted a trust to oversee construction of a Ram temple at the once disputed site in the town.
A senior railway officer said the 18-coach special train has been booked by an individual through Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation from Mumbai to Ayodhya and return.
He said the train carrying Shiv Sainiks departed about 45 minutes late from its scheduled time of 1.15 pm from LTT in suburban Kurla.
According to the officer, the train is expected to reach Ayodhya on Friday evening and the next day (Saturday) it will embark on its return journey at 11.20 pm.
The special train is scheduled to reach LTT on March 9 at 5 am, he said.
The special train has been given halts at Thane, Kalyan, Igatpuri and Bhusawal in Maharashtra, apart from six other enroute stops.
WhatsApp messages were in circulation among Shiv Sainiks asking party members to board the special train at these stations if they wanted to visit Ayodhya.
According to Sena functionaries, several party MLAs, corporators and Shiv Sainiks have planned to visit Ayodhya by flights and other modes of transport on Friday.
Shiv Sena spokespersons could not be reached for comments.
In November 2018, Thackeray had first visited Ayodhya and at the time his party had booked two special trains -- one from Mumbai and another from Nashik -- for carrying Shiv Sainiks.
The Shiv Sena, which is ruling the state in alliance with the Congress and the Nationalst Congress Party, has been a strong proponent of construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.