Mamata selling dreams to common man, says BJP; window-dressing: CPI(M)

Political parties reacted to the Railway budget on predictable lines. While the ruling alliance hailed it as a “good budget,” the Opposition termed it an “exercise in deceit” and a “jugglery of accounts.”

The Opposition was critical of the spate of new projects and schemes Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee unveiled on Friday, arguing that there is no financial backing for their implementation. Most of the proposals would meet the same fate as the grandiose plans laid out in the past two budgets.

Charging Ms. Banerjee with “selling dreams” to the common man, the BJP said the budget was symptomatic of the dismal state of the Manmohan Singh-led government. Deputy Leader of the BJP in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde told journalists that the five-year plan envisaged by the Minister could not be implemented even in 50 years.

Mr. Munde said the Railways' finances and performance were in a mess, with the organisation surviving on extensive borrowing. No significant steps were taken to strengthen the rail tracks and improve security.

Contending that most of the projects and schemes announced by Ms. Banerjee in her previous budgets never took off, he demanded that the government come out with a performance budget, listing the promises made and kept. As for the projects proposed in West Bengal, including at Singur and Nandigram, he wanted her to clarify from where the land for them would be made available.

BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain struck a different note. He thanked Ms. Banerjee for conceding all demands made for his constituency in Bihar. But he hastened to add that the Minister did not do justice to the State.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the Minister had “cunningly juggled” the figures to project an improved financial position, though in reality the Railways registered a growth of just 3 per cent and paid Rs.1,700 crore less in dividend.

In a statement, the party's Polit Bureau dubbed the budget a fraudulent exercise aimed at window-dressing the pathetic state of the Railways' finances and announcing sundry projects which it said would never take off. Under Ms. Banerjee, the Railways were on a ruinous path. “Is the Prime Minister allowing this to happen due to compulsions of coalition politics,” it asked. The party released a separate statement, “Litany of broken promises in Railway budget,” under 23 heads. The Polit Bureau said the operating ratio of 92.1 mentioned in the budget for 2010-11 was not a credible estimate; it concealed the much higher actual operating ratio.

“This has been done by playing with the figures. The freight loading target this year had to be lowered by the Railway Ministry by 20 million tonnes (as admitted by the Railway Minister in her speech), which exposes the inefficiency of railway operations. Despite this, the freight earnings have been retained at the same level as last year in the budget,” it said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the budget as a “common man's budget.” Since the freight and passenger fares were to remain unchanged, it would help in reducing inflation, he said adding Ms. Banerjee did a commendable job and the measures to increase investment in infrastructure would add to the growth momentum of the economy.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee complimented Ms. Banerjee for presenting a “good budget” despite a difficult financial situation owing to increased wage burden.

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