The BJP is emphasising PM Narendra Modi’s Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project in its election campaign in Gujarat. The high-speed train on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Corridor, operating at speeds of 320 km/hr and covering a distance of 508 km with 12 stations, has become a point of contention. Critics are questioning the utility and necessity of the train, sparking debate between the BJP and its opponents.

“The Bullet Train will first start from Bilimora (in Navsari) to Surat. It is not a small matter that the country’s first bullet train is happening in our region,” said BJP President of Gujarat CR Patil who represents the Navsari constituency, which is one of the 26 Lok Sabha seats currently occupied by the BJP in Gujarat. Patil had won the 2019 polls with a victory margin of 6.87 lakh votes, the highest in the State.

Speaking at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit recently, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw stated that the 35 km stretch between Surat and Bilimora in Gujarat is expected to be completed, with the bullet train on this segment becoming operational by 2026. The Minister also attributed delays in the project to the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government led by Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra.

Farmers’ protest

Speaking at a political gathering in Navsari on April 2, Patil stated, “The farmers who gave up their land for the Bullet train project were initially offered ₹3 lakh per bigha. They approached me, and I assured them that I would not allow any injustice. I advocated on their behalf, and the compensation was increased to ₹1.03 crore, providing them with an additional crore. This compensation is tax-free and exceeds double the market rates. Our efforts are aimed at ensuring that no one suffers injustice.” Patil did not mention the farmers’ protests in Gujarat against the compensation provided by the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL).

In September 2018, a year after the project’s foundation stone was laid, the Gujarat government announced that compensation for affected farmers would be doubled.

The first trial run of the bullet train is expected to happen on a 50 kilometre stretch between Surat and Bilimora in South Gujarat in 2026. NHSRCL has already paid more than ₹9,400 crore as compensation for land acquired in Maharashtra, Gujarat and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Of this, ₹6,104 crore compensation for 6,248 private land parcels in Gujarat.

The Gujarat unit of BJP has published a video reel on the Bullet Train project on social media and stated, “For the Congress, the Bullet train was a day-dream. But it is a resolve for the Modi government. The project is taking shape and by 2026 it will be ready for the general public. This video begins with an old pubic address of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi where he says, “The bullet train is never going to be built. It should not be called a bullet train, but it should be called a magic train. It will never get built.” The video then shows pictures of infrastructure — including bridges, viaduct and stations — being built as part of the project.

Maharashtra politics

While BJP leaders in Maharashtra have not emphasised the bullet train project in their election campaign, the party’s leadership remains committed to advancing the project. Raj Thackeray, who previously opposed the project, is currently in discussions with the BJP for a potential alliance. Meanwhile, Uddhav Thackeray, who expressed that the bullet train was not a priority during his tenure as Chief Minister, is now out of power in the State.