Opposition slam railway budget, Congress says it’s great

February 26th, 2008 - 5:37 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party

New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) The opposition said it was disappointing, the Congress welcomed it as “excellent” and the Left termed it mixed. The reaction to Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s fifth budget on the trot Tuesday was on expected party lines - with some leaders viewing it from the prism of their respective states. The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) expressed dismay. “It is disappointing,” said BJP leader V.K. Malhotra.

“There is nothing for the common people using the Western Railway. They (the union government) introduced centrally air-conditioned trains from Ahmedabad to Mumbai only to make money. There is nothing for the ordinary people,” BJP MP and former Gujarat minister Haren Pathak added.

Shiv Sena MP Manohar Joshi said the railway budget did not offer much for Mumbai in particular and for Maharashtra and other states in general.

B.K. Tripathi of Orissa’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) said the railway budget was a betrayal to the people of the state. “The state has been totally neglected and most initiatives have gone to Bihar.”

Illiyas Azmi, a senior Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MP, said it was “Bihar’s budget”. “Lalu Prasad has ignored the needs of other states, including Uttar Pradesh.”

The Samajwadi Party, which has been on the warpath with the Congress, also hit out at the budget. “It is a budget of a private limited company. At this rate, one day the railways will become a private company,” party MP Mohan Singh said.

“By presenting such an imbalanced budget on the eve of the elections, Lalu has derailed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.”

The Left expressed concerned about privatisation.

“It is a mixed budget. What concerns us is the palpable sign of the privatisation culture getting into the railways,” said D. Raja and Gurudas Dasgupta of the Communist Party of India (CPI).

However, they admitted that the document that lays out the policies of the railway ministry for the next year attempted to take care of the interests of passengers.

Most Congress leaders welcomed the budget unconditionally.

Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni rejected the opposition’s charge that the railway ministry was heading towards complete privatisation.

“It is a time when we are talking of public-private partnership and there are several areas in the (railway) ministry where there is scope for private sector participation.”

Asked about the opposition criticism, Soni told reporters: “As long as the budget does not affect the common people, we should welcome it.”

Minister for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal termed it excellent and said: “Lalu Yadav feels for the common man.”

MP Milind Deora was also all praise. “The minister has shown concern for youths, senior citizens and women. As a citizen of Mumbai I am happy that the first phase of Mumbai urban transportation will be completed by 2009.”

However, Jiten Prasada viewed it from the perspective of being a Congress MP from Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh.

“A very good budget but there is nothing for Uttar Pradesh. I wish the minister had given more connectivity to places which are not yet linked to railways in Uttar Pradesh.”

Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) expressed happiness over the budget because he said most of his state’s long-term demands had been met.

These include establishing a railway coach factory, four new trains, extending one from Coimbatore to Ernakulam and increasing the frequency of the New Delhi-Thiruvananthapuram Rajdhani from twice a week to thrice a week.

“I have seen it on TV and certainly I am happy because our demands have been met. We had met the prime minister (Manmohan Singh) and the railway minister ahead of the budget and it has paid off,” Achuthanandan said.

He said his government had committed free land for the railways to set up the coach factory.

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