By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Sep 14 (IANS) Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari might never have expected so many speed breakers to the implementation of his pet project - the amended Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) which has stipulated stringent penalties, both fines and punishments - for traffic rules violators.
Going to the extent of claiming it as one of the biggest achievements of the NDA 2.0, Gadkari justified the penalties as these were revised after 30 years and only intended to save innocent lives on the treacherous Indian roads.
Though there were initial murmurs of protests from many states, it was only on September 10 that the dam broke after Gujarat government decided to drastically water down the new MVA regulations.
The move was politically significant since both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah hail from Gujarat.
The following day, in an interview to IANS, Maharashtra's Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission (VNSSM) Chairman Kishore Tiwari termed the new MVA as "anti-people" and warned that "it could spur suicides in the country".
As a massive furore erupted over Tiwari's statement, Gadkari boldly reiterated his views that afternoon, but the same evening suffered another setback.
In Gadkari's home-state, Maharashtra, the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena also abruptly decided to stay the implementation of the new MVA.
A number of states have either defanged the new MVA, stayed its implementation or demanded a downward revision in the fines and punishment by amending the Act.
Thus, Gadkari's passionate pleas for the new MVA were rejected by Gujarat and Maharashtra, both key states for the credibility and nationwide acceptance of MVA.
Tiwari said that Gadkari - once considered a potential PM candidate - may have acted in haste when it could have been implemented in small doses, or at least, kept the fines and punishment reasonable for mass concurrence.
"If it results in people giving up driving or not buying vehicles, it will further damage the crises-hit economy. In fact, people would happily cough out such fines provided the Indian roads are world-class, vehicles of supreme quality, fuel prices are rational, along with speedy insurance clearances, comparable with the USA-Europe," Tiwari told IANS.
Maharashtra Transport Minister (Shiv Sena) Diwakar Raote even wrote to Gadkari, terming the new MVA as "exorbitant" which had resulted in public outcry and demanded it be slashed.
The state government's move was politically strategic as Maharashtra goes to elections next month and neither alliance partner could risk antagonizing the voters at this critical stage.