A good number of members present in the Lok Sabha refused to fall for what Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee doled out in her budget presentation on Friday. They eventually requested her to end her speech. It was clear that they considered most of the incentives empty promises.
Ms. Banerjee shored up goodwill by meeting senior leaders and members ahead of presenting her budget proposal but all that melted away in no time. The Opposition members first laughed away her announcements when they learnt that the Railways would just be examining them.
With the passage of time they lost their patience and Janata Dal (United) member Rajiv Ranjan led the charge wanting to know about the fate of pending projects in Bihar. That saw members from other States too joining forces.
Ms. Banerjee expressed her anger that none appreciated her announcements for other States but took exception only when she declared something for West Bengal. At times she asked them to shut up and on other occasions she simply told them that she would not heed their demands and eventually added that it was not possible to satisfy all of them.
This again forced quite a few MPs to rush to the well of the House and it was only after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal's intervention asking her to be accommodative did the Railway Minister yield ground to the JD(U) president.
By now even Congress members had become jittery over her announcements and the loudest among them was cine star Raj Babbar. Finding that her list of announcements was lengthy, the members requested that the rest of her speech be treated as read.
Even after the conclusion of her budget presentation, Ms. Banerjee was crowded by a number of MPs so much that she had little time to accept Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's felicitations.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi found herself in the thick of things and had to virtually plead with the members that Ms. Banerjee would take care of their interests. She assuaged Mr. Babbar too.
The reaction of the members was not surprising given that most of the promises made in the last budget had not been implemented and the announcements of new ones in the face of a fund crunch made little sense.
The Railways require about Rs. 1.4 lakh crore to execute pending projects and she admitted that her promise to convert some of the important stations to world-class had met with technical problems. The other projects for manufacturing coaches and wagons and locomotives are yet to start.