The much-awaited flyover at Rajnoli was Monday inaugurated thrice by local politicians, including BJP MP Kapil Patil.
Neither of the inauguration events was, however, attended by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) officials, sources said.
Planned in 2013, to ease the traffic congestion at Rajnoli and Mankoli bypass junctions on Mumbai-Nasik highway, the flyover was completed days before the model code of conduct came into force ahead of the October 21 Assembly elections in the state. However, the flyover had not been opened to the public pending an inauguration ceremony.
On Monday, leaders from Jai Aagri Seva Sanstha, a local political group, “opened” it to the public by dragging away barricades placed on the flyover. Yashwant Patil, Sanstha’s leader, who inaugurated the bridge, said, “The local leaders just want to sit on stages and make a huge fanfare out of things. They don’t care for the locals.”
In the evening, BJP MP Kapil Patil along with Bhiwandi mayor Javed Dalvi and Sena leaders reached the spot and cut a ribbon to “inaugurate” the flyover. “The flyover has been built because of our hard work and will open the roads up. The flyover will ease traffic on the road and the time of commute will go down by 15-20 minutes,” the BJP MP said.
Referring to Yashwant Patil’s remarks, the BJP MP added, “The bridge is for the people and we have all worked for them in our own ways. To claim complete credit for it and make this a political issue is not right.”
Claiming that the road had been closed as work on it had not finished, a BJP worker and Patil’s aide said, “We had planned to inaugurate it after the (Assembly) elections, and on Monday, we found a suitable time and decided to do away with a (formal) ceremony.” Later in the evening, local Samajwadi Party members congregated near the flyover and conducted yet another “inauguration” ceremony.
“Local residents have been demanding that the road be opened. However, since no one was doing it publicly, we did it now,” a party worker said.
An MMRDA officer related to the project, who did not wish to be identified, said, “We had completed the project and informed the local administration. I am not aware of what is happening now.”
Generally, an inauguration ceremony is organised by the civic authorities and the local MP or MLA, and MMRDA officials are usually invited to such events. However, no officials from the Authority were invited for the inauguration Monday.
Residents of Mankoli, meanwhile, said they had already begun using the bridge following a delay in its inauguration. “Two-wheelers could pass through the barriers (put on the flyover) and we have been using it. However, now the heavy vehicles can also use the flyover, which will ease the traffic at the junction,” Raheem Shaikh, a resident of Mankoli, said.
Another local resident, Praveen Patil, said, “These [inauguration of flyover] political gimmicks are clearly for gaining credit. But only we are responsible for this bridge. After several accidents and several protests, the bridge was built. We are glad it has been opened to the public, it doesn’t matter who inaugurated it.”
The flyover is one of the several bridges that were under construction in Thane region.