Traffic snarls were reported on the Western Express Highway (WEH), between Dindoshi and Vakola, on Thursday as BJP’s Yuva Morcha took out a bike rally to welcome party president Amit Shah. The rally was taken out from the domestic terminal 1B to the Bandra-Kurla Complex. As many as 25,000 local BJP workers participated in the 3 km-long rally, among them 10,000 bikers and several car drivers.
The Mumbai traffic control room confirmed that the disruption was due to the rally as BJP workers had also set up a stage on WEH. Traffic was heavy from 4 pm on Thursday, from the time bikers started gathering near Airport Road. The control room claimed that traffic was cleared by 8 pm after Shah’s convoy reached Sofitel Hotel in BKC.
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Harshal Mantri, the Yuva Morcha secretary, said: “We did intimate the Mumbai Police about the rally following which we decided to take out the rally on the last lane of the road, as the first two lanes was used by motorists for regular movement. In order to avoid congestion, we had our party workers on the road to help motorists.” But several commuters were seen leaving hired cabs midway and walking to the airport so that they do not miss their flights.
Jiya Bhansali, a software professional, who was taking a flight to Chennai, said: “I was about to miss my flight to Chennai on Thursday evening. Thankfully, I had reached two hours before the departure time and could walk to the airport with my luggage. The evening commute was bad.”
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Furious with the congestion, a woman who was seen rushing to the airport with her shoes in her hand, said: “This is such a nuisance for the public. I am from Bangalore and I work in Mumbai. I have a flight to catch as I go home to my daughter every weekend. I have been caught up in this traffic for an hour. I hope I don’t miss my flight.”
A Rajasthan resident said: “I took my car and left for the airport. I have been stuck for two hours. I just left my car mid-way and now, I am rushing to the airport.” Vistara Airlines said it accommodated passengers who could not make it on time. “We are accommodating passengers who are late or missing their flights on a ‘do the right thing to help the customer’ basis,” said an official.
Commuters going home from work complained about the snarl too. “I was stuck on the Sahar elevated road, going towards Khar, since 6 pm. Traffic remained the same till 7 pm. Why does the rally have to affect commuters ?” Ajay Sanap, a regular commuter, said. A Navi Mumbai resident said: “I had a presentation at the Orchid hotel but I had to walk till the Western Express Highway as my driver is stuck in traffic. I waited for him at the hotel for an hour. But as he said he could not move at all, my colleague and I decided to walk down. I will have to take a detour now from Sakinaka as it is congested till Bandra.”
Joint Commissioner of Police (traffic) Amitesh Kumar said: “Usually, there is traffic on the Western Express Highway but today (on Thursday) there was a delay of 30-45 minutes because of the people who had gathered to welcome Amit Shah.”
On one side, commuters were struggling to get to their destinations, on the other, BJP workers were waiting to welcome their party president.
Balaji Nadar, a party worker from Antop Hill, said: “We want to felicitate Amit sir in the best way possible. We left our house around 1 pm for the venue just to make sure that we reach near Sahara Star hotel at the right time.” A party worker from Dharavi, Harshit, said: “We were informed yesterday (Wednesday) that we were supposed to assemble near Sahara Star hotel by 3 pm. We were asked to reach early because we were told that Amit sir would be arriving between 6 pm and 7 pm.”
Around 7pm, when local BJP workers and the traffic policemen sensed that Shah would arrive soon, a towing van was sent to tow illegally parked vehicles along the road. But it was later gheraoed by BJP workers after two party workers’ bikes that were part of the rally were towed away.
Shah reached the stage around 7.15 pm and after a five minute felicitation his convoy left. The convoy was followed by scores of bikers but even Shah was affected due to the congestion till Vakola flyover. The convey reached Sofitel Hotel in BKC around 8.30 pm after which the bikers and other party supporters dispersed. More than 100 policemen were deployed to manage traffic along the route.