Lalu’s budget leaves Left MPs divided

February 26th, 2008 - 7:22 pm ICT by admin  

(From the corridors of power)

New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) Railway Minister Lalu Prasad cleverly managed to create a rift among Left MPs by handing out handsome goodies to Kerala and leaving West Bengal comparatively in the lurch in his budget presented to the Lok Sabha Tuesday. So upset were West Bengal comrades - including members from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Communist Party of India (CPI) - that some of them got up from their seats and ran angrily to the centre of the house. However, their Kerala comrades stoutly refused to accompany them in their show of protest and a walkout despite floor leader Basudeb Acharya directing them to do so.

Kerala has got four new trains, one train line has been extended and the frequency of one train increased. Besides, the state has also got a major bonus in the form of a new coach factory. In comparison, West Bengal now has eight new trains, which the MPs from the state claim are just for “names’ sake”.

To show their support to Lalu Prasad’s budget, most Kerala MPs - barring two - came to the front row and remained seated together. One was seen reacting angrily when fellow comrades from West Bengal were trying to force them to join in their walkout.

The evident differences among the Left MPs had the Congress MPs smiling happily. Later, outside the house Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh came forward to the Kerala MPs and “congratulated” them.

“I feel proud of Kerala MPs. For the first time, that you did not join the hooliganism of your Bengal comrades,” Ramesh told them.

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Politics of ‘walk outs’

Politics over the upcoming assembly polls was reflected in the Lok Sabha Tuesday when Railway Minister Lalu Prasad presented the budget for 2008-09. The opposition MPs from all poll-bound states walked out of the house before Lalu Prasad finished his budget presentation, alleging “negligence” to their respective states.

Although the “walking out” was initiated by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs from Gujarat, they were promptly followed by those from Rajasthan, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh as well as Samajwadi Party members from Uttar Pradesh. Opposition MPs from Maharashtra and Orissa also walked out, protesting the budget.

Assembly elections are due in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

“Lalu has derailed the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) train before the elections,” Samajawadi Party leader Mohan Singh told IANS.

While Gujarat and Rajasthan MPs were complaining about the “negligence of the Western Railway”, others accused the railway minister of “depriving us of new projects and new trains”.

But the Congress MPs played down the opposition’s protests as a “drama”.

“The opposition had to create a drama as it is election year,” Congress MP Sachin Pilot said. “It is not possible to fulfil everyone’s expectations. It is a balanced budget.”

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Lalu’s family skips budget

Unlike earlier railway budgets in the past years, when Lalu Prasad’s family members watched the proceedings from the visitors’ gallery, this time none of the minister’s family members was present in the gallery in the Lok Sabha where they usually sat. During last year’s budget, the minister’s sons and daughters were present.

Not many Rajya Sabha members were also seated inside their special enclosure. Young MPs Supriya Sule, daughter of Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, and Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK chief M. Karunanidhi, were sitting and taking down notes.

Congress MPs Rajiv Shukla and P.J. Kurien and Rahul Bajaj were also watching the proceedings from the gallery for the Rajya Sabha members.

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