E Sreedharan, the legendary Metro Man of India, is set to join the BJP months ahead of polls in Kerala. The 88-year-old Keralite is likely to join the party during its Vijay Yatra in Kerala from 21 February and may also contest the Kerala election, due by May, although there are questions about the BJP’s cut-off point of 75 years for elections, applied previously to veterans like LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
“I have been living in Kerala for the last 10 years, since my retirement. I have seen different governments and they are not doing what can be done for the people. I am joining the BJP to be able to do my part, using my experience,” he said, explaining the reason he opted for the BJP.
The Metro Man criticized other political parties for what he called “blind opposition” and showing India in a bad light. “Political parties with vested interests are projecting India in a very bad light nationally and opposing just for the sake of opposing. Parties like the Indian National Congress (INC) are creating a bad image for India”, he said.
On his views on the BJP raising alleged “love-jihad” — the term many Christians of Kerala and Hindus across the country use to refer to dubious relationships between cheating Muslim men and gullible Hindu women — in this election and its stand on preserving the Sabarimala tradition of barring women between 10 and 50 years, Sreedharan said, “I believe in the party. This is the reason why I have joined the party. BJP’s stand is correct.”
E ‘Metro Man’ Sreedharan said he was open to contesting the election if the party wanted.
The BJP has one MLA in the 140-member Kerala assembly and is considered a bit player compared to the ruling Left-led alliance and the opposition INC led coalition.
Asked about his decision to join politics after a long and successful stint steering some of the country’s biggest metro and railway projects, Sreedharan said: “I want to use my time and experience in making a difference.”
Sreedharan retired as chief of the Delhi Metro in 2011. The engineer is involved in other metro projects in the country such as in Jaipur, Lucknow and Kochi.
The Metro Man was awarded the Padma Shri in 2001 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2008.
Sreedharan came in the spotlight when he worked on restoring the historic Pamban bridge in Tamil Nadu, the link between the island Rameshwaram and the mainland, after it was damaged by a cyclone.
After he retired in 1990 as a senior railway engineer, he was drafted into the mega Konkan Railway project that proved his skills as an efficient executor. The mega project, cutting through almost impossible terrain, was completed in a fourth of the time initially assessed.
In 1995, Sreedharan was handed charge of the Delhi Metro project, which was to be the first in a series of showpiece city metro projects under his stewardship.