Special Correspondent

JAIPUR: The Union Railway Budget this year has evoked a mixed response from politicians in Rajasthan even though the State is a recipient of several new rail projects worth Rs.540 crore and a Garib Rath linking Jaipur and Bandra Terminal in Mumbai via Ahmedabad. The criticism, it appears, is due partly to political considerations though some of the negative reactions stemmed from high expectations triggered off by previous year's announcements which now stood belied.

A major complaint is that though Rajasthan on paper is getting four new trains, three of them would be operational only after gauge conversions. This is against the previous year's announcement of 11 new trains starting from the State. The new trains include Bikaner-Jaisalmer via Kolayat-Phalodi Express, Chennai-Egmore-Nagaur Express, Mumbai-Ajmer-Udaipur Express and Ajmer-Udaipur-Ratlam Express. The last three trains would start only after gauge conversion.

Predictably the Congress leaders have welcomed the rail budget -- though not wholeheartedly - but the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leaders cried foul and said "gross injustice" had been done to the State. The leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the All India Forward Bloc have welcomed the Budget.

The Budget has greatly disappointed South Indians, especially Kerala-ites living in Rajasthan, as none of their long pending demands, including a train linking both the Capital cities, has materialised.

"The railway budget is disappointing for Rajasthan. The long-standing demands of the State have not been fulfilled. The projects involving the State have not been given enough importance," said Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. "The rail budget is another example of the injustice being meted out by the present Government at the Centre to Rajasthan," she charged.

"The three new trains announced are a dream as of now going by the speed of the gauge conversion work in the State in the past," Ms. Raje said. Congress general secretary and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on the other hand hailed the rail budget as one fulfilling the Rajasthan people's aspirations to a "great extent". Terming the budget announcements a relief to all categories of passengers, Mr. Gehlot said Mr. Prasad's attempts to expand rail services even while providing fresh concessions to users were appreciable.