New Delhi: Railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal snubbed the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and implicitly blamed West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and leaders of her party who were his predecessors for railway projects remaining incomplete in that state.
“I am sorry, 98% of railway budget cannot be for West Bengal,” Bansal said, responding to the TMC’s complaint that the projects initiated by Banerjee during her term as railway minister have not been pursued.
Bansal’s jibe at the TMC, a former ally of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, came a day after the Congress and the TMC showed some signs of a thaw in their relations.
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said on Monday that Banerjee, also the TMC chief, had a “positive mind” towards the National Counterterrorism Centre, which the chief minister had earlier opposed vehemently.
The TMC, which rated the budget at 20 out of 100, reacted sharply and said the people of West Bengal would not forgive this “snub”.
“This budget has been made with a vindictive attitude and vengeance to destroy TMC,” party leader and former Union minister Saugata Roy said at a press conference after the presentation of the budget.
“This government will not get another chance to present the budget,” he added, predicting a defeat for the ruling Congress and its allies in the next general election scheduled in 2014.
Bansal also said TMC members did not have the patience to allow him to complete his speech but preferred to disrupt it in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
“They could have waited for me to complete my speech. They stopped me, maybe for political reasons,” he said, adding that the TMC could not blame him for West Bengal’s incomplete projects. “There were other TMC ministers after her,” he said, referring to both Dinesh Trivedi and Mukul Roy, who were in charge of the railway ministry after Banerjee left for West Bengal to take over as the chief minister in 2011.
Bansal’s positive references to Trivedi’s initiatives in his speech, however, were seen as an attempt to provoke the TMC. Trivedi had been forced to quit his ministerial post last year after proposing to increase rail fares despite Banerjee’s opposition.
“In the budget 2012-13, my learned predecessor had proposed to segregate fuel component in tariffs as FAC (fuel adjustment component, linking passenger fares and freight charges to the fuel price),” said Bansal, whose budget sought to take forward Trivedi’s proposal.
“It seems a deliberate attempt to rub salt on their wounds,” said a Congress parliamentarian from West Bengal who declined to be named.
Most of the projects that had been announced by TMC ministers—such as a railway industrial park at Jellingham, a railway axle factory in Jalpaiguri, wagon and coach component factories in Kulti, Budge Budge, Kharagpur, Dankuni, Haldia and Kanchrapara—have not made any headway yet.
The TMC, which has 19 members in the Lok Sabha, was a part of the UPA government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh till September, when it pulled out of the ruling coalition protesting against its decision to allow foreign direct investment in supermarkets.
The TMC had opposed several policy changes, including the constitution of the National Counterterrorism Centre, apart from the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill.