Hits out at Congress’ estranged ally for not letting him complete speech

Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal criticised the Trinamool Congress for disrupting his maiden budget speech, saying the Congress’ estranged ally cannot accept someone else presenting the budget.

At a customary press conference after the budget, he said it was not correct on the part of the Trinamool to raise a din during his speech. “They could not accept anyone other than one from the TMC to deliver the Railway Budget.”

Mr. Bansal took charge after Mukul Roy resigned after the Trinamool withdrew support to the UPA government.

The Ministry was with the Trinamool ever since the UPA-II assumed office. TMC chief Mamata Banerjee then was the Railway Minister and she was succeeded by her party’s Dinesh Trivedi when she became Chief Minister.

Mr. Trivedi resigned in the midst of last year’s budget session after Ms. Banerjee, who opposed his fare hike proposals, pressured him to quit. Mr. Roy took over from Mr. Trivedi and passed the budget, but his tenure also proved short-lived.

Mr. Bansal, who virtually had to cut short the concluding part of his speech, said the Trinamool should have had the patience to listen to him and it would not have had any room for grievance. He pointed out that he had allocated two new projects, provided seven new trains, allowed extension of seven others and increased the frequency of two others under the jurisdiction of West Bengal. The Railways would implement the Metro project, besides the east-west corridor.

“In budget speeches, only new projects are mentioned and not the old ones. In any case, you cannot have 98 per cent going to West Bengal,” he said.

He did not spare the BJP either for describing the budget as Rae Bareli-centric. Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has been allocated a new forged wheel factory. Taking a dig at BJP leaders, he said they were very good at giving different meaning to things. “If they have an anathema to Rae Bareli, then I can’t do anything about it.”

Mr. Bansal said he had given due importance to all regions. Asked how a coach factory in Rae Bareli could be inaugurated in record time while no spadework was done in the case of the Palakkad project in Kerala, he said this would start rolling soon.

He justified the rise in freight charges to offset the projected outgo of Rs. 5100 crore on fuel bill in 2013-14 as it was imperative to improve the financial health of the Railways. He stressed that the 5.7 per cent hike in freight charges would yield Rs. 4200 crore, but the Railways would absorb the burden imposed on the passenger segment to the tune of Rs. 850 crore as passenger fares were increased only about a month ago.