Despite skipping the Union Cabinet meeting, Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday denied there was a rift with the United Progressive Alliance government over the issue of a CBI probe into the Jnaneswari Express derailment at Sardiha last week that claimed 148 lives. The Trinamool is a constituent of the UPA government.
Ms. Banerjee lashed out at journalists for repeatedly seeking her reaction to Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram seeking the West Bengal government's opinion on a CBI probe into the causes that led to the derailment and the latter raising the red flag. Ms. Banerjee regarded some of the questions as attempting to create confusion among “us” (the UPA and the Trinamool). She maintained that the issue of whether the CBI should probe the incident was a matter to be decided by “ourselves.”
“It is our government and we'll decide whether to have a CBI probe or not.”
She had petitioned the Home Minister for a CBI probe and not the State government.
Ms. Banerjee said she would not leave any stone unturned to ensure that the actual culprits were punished.
“I'm not an astrologer. The causes will be known after an investigation,” she said. Earlier, she had maintained that the derailment was the outcome of an explosion triggered by the Communist Party of India (Maoists).
The Minister demanded that a “strong” investigation be carried out in a manner that the evidence was not suppressed, but kept intact. She would not compromise on the safety and security of the passengers, she said, underscoring that the passengers, in this case, were brutally killed in the most heinous manner.
Ms. Banerjee took exception to questions on her skipping the Cabinet meeting, saying it was her prerogative to attend or not. She claimed that the agenda was not serious and related to just the imposition of President's rule in Jharkhand.
The Trinamool leader said her first priority was to attend the UPA's function later in the day, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be releasing the government's report card.
To questions on her absence from Delhi, she charged that they were politically motivated and that such posers were never put to her predecessor, Lalu Prasad, who, she said, did not reply to even one question in Parliament during his tenure.