Delhi Metro From Xmas

New Delhi, October 30: | Updated: Oct 31 2002, 05:30am hrs
The Delhi metro rail will be functional starting December 25, Union urban development minister Ananth Kumar said on Wednesday.

In a move to take credit for the system and end the controversy over who should throw open the system, Mr Kumar said, We have already requested prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to inaugurate the metro. The Delhi government had previously invited president APJ Abdul Kalam to do the honours.

Mr Kumars announcement at a press conference has taken even the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) by surprise. DMRC has conveyed to the Centre that it will be ready to begin operations any time after December 15 and December 25 was selected because it happens to be prime ministers birthday, sources said.

The metro system is seen as a vote-generator in a state which goes to polls next year. With Mr Vajpayee inaugurating the metro and a Central law governing its running, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be gaining in this tug of war. The Union cabinet on Monday cleared Metro Railways (operation and maintenance) Ordinance 2002 to facilitate the initiation of operations.

On the immediacy behind the ordinance, Mr Kumar said mandates of the railway safety commissioner and the railway claims tribunal could not have been facilitated until a law was in place. But reluctant to relinquish control easily, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit has labelled the ordinance as another instrument of Central interference.

Ms Dikshit said on Wednesday that she would write to the prime minister to convey the displeasure of the state government over the issue.