When the celebrated Metro Man says a firm “No”, even the politicians need to take due heed.

Dr E Sreedharan’s categorical rejection of Arvind Kejriwal’s populist ploy for free travel by women on the Delhi Metro is eminently professional and apolitical, and puts the citizen on test ~ is he/she prepared to risk perhaps the only successful public transportation venture the Capital has ever experienced for the sake of a genderbiased sop?

A few contrived politically-motivated surveys might suggest the freebie has women drooling, but the message is getting home. As is evident from the chief minister’s sidekick coming up with some equally ridiculous alternatives.

The Delhi Metro is not perfect, it has irked many citizens by constantly expanding to the satellite towns and forcing the “locals” to jostle for standing room in trains that are already overcrowded when they arrive in the metropolis, but few would wish the system to face financial ruin because some myopic neta has an eye on a forthcoming election.

In a letter to the Prime Minister slamming the AAP government’s move, Dr Sreedharan has recalled that from its very inception the Delhi Metro has been firm against any kind of “concessions”. Even Metro staff pay their way, as did Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Prince of Wales, and cautioned against allowing a cancer to develop and spread, Advancing sound financial and technical reasons against cheap popularity, Sreedharan has noted that there are other “deserving” sections of society too ~ students, the elderly, disabled etc: warning against any opening of the floodgates that have a domino effect on metros in other cities too.

He also stressed the point that politicians conveniently ignore ~ loans from Japan are what still fund and sustain the Delhi Metro, they must be paid off before political largesse is permitted. Unlike BJP politicians in general and the union minister for urban affairs in particular, Sreedharan did not raise political arguments against the “free lunch” offer.

Now we must await the Prime Minister’s take on the issue. There is every reason to apprehend another stand-off, Kejriwal (like his buddy Mamata) relishes a dogfight, caring little for those who suffer collateral damage. And with both the Lieutenant-Governor and the minister for urban affairs (the latter ridiculed the AAP being beaten to third place in the Lok Sabha polls from Delhi, but dared not mention the outcome in Amritsar) ever keen to cross swords with the AAP only the interests of the people suffer.

Whether in Delhi or Puducherry, the experiment with partial statehood has proved a failure. Now the Metro is in the firing line and who dare predict what the fall-out will be. Those who insist that Delhi is pampered have little idea of what split-responsibility can trickle down to when small men occupy big positions.