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Mamata Banerjee Backfires: Terrible Precedent Of Railway Budget A Vote Gainer?

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By Twesh Mishra:

Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal has for long been a thorn for the ruling United Progressive Alliance. Riding high on the support of 19 MP’s who are supporting the near to redundant central government and the majoritarian Trinamol Congress Government in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee is certainly calling the shots for major deals struck by the UPA.

What brought the limelight back onto Didi (as she is popularly referred to) is the 2012 Railway Budget Presented by Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi. The Trinamol stalwart replaced Mamta Banarjee as the Railway Minister when she decided to forfeit her post in the Central Government to serve the people of West Bengal and was steadily inching closer to the Congress Party. Trivedi was constantly accused by party loyalists and Didi herself of swaying away from the party’s ideologies.

The quintessence defiance projected itself when the Union Rail Budget was presented in the parliament without the prior consent of her highness. The 2012 Budget focused on safety and security of trains as a priority and also on increasing the fares. An enraged Mamata adamant to reinforce loyalty into her ranks declared publically at a gathering in Nandigram that her she would oppose the fare hike.

The adamant Trivedi stood by his stand of raising the tariff by 2 paisa rise in fare per kilometre in second class, 10 paisa per kilometre rise in third AC and 30 paisa per kilometre hike in first AC. Further the price of platform tickets earlier costing Rs. 3 was hiked to Rs. 5. The negligible escalation of tariff rates would help the railways recover an estimated Rs. 6000 crore.

But Mamata saw otherwise, with the Municipal Elections an year ahead, Didi witnessed the tariff hike as an electoral serpent. She was quick to distance herself from the proposed budget and even quicker to demand the replacement of her own party member with Mukul Roy, the Minister of State for Shipping. Her antic may go down among the electorates as an attempt to uphold the sanctity of the masses and cater to look after the needs of the poor. But for a relatively broadminded set of individuals willing to look beyond electoral politics, Mamata has set a terrible precedent.

The arguments put forward by Trivedi while advocating the rise in prices were convincing for any balanced individual. Firstly, the prices had not been revised for over 9 years and going by the increasing inflation and subsequent increase in living standards, it was necessary for the Indian Railways to revise their fares. Secondly, 2 paisa price hike per kilometre in second class tickets is a virtual nothing if comparing to the current market scenario. If assuming the distance of journey to be 1500 kilometres, the price hike would be a menial Rs. 30. As if these were not enough to convince the undisputed upholder of people’s rights in West Bengal, the Rs. 6000 crore increase in revenue would be utilised in completing pending tasks and further in upgrading the current railways network to comply to more stringent standards of security and safety.

Sadly, Didi was unable to grasp these arguments and insisted on replacing her minister and vehemently criticizing the budget proposed by him. It is not that this is the first time that Mamta Banerjee has opposed any supposed anti-poor legislation. Over the past years Didi and her party have expressed palpable displeasure on any various policies adopted by the UPA II. Being a member of the UPA, Mamta commands a special place in the corridors of power and does ensure her participation in even the most menial decisions.

The mention of the Railway Budget and the ensuing controversy is incomplete without a mention of the Indian National Congress. The year 2012 seems to be the year of setbacks for the Congress government. After the dismal performance in the Uttar Pradesh Elections and the precarious Uttarakhand government, the grand old party needs to rethink its strategies and political aspirants. The congress party is certainly not in the pink of health and Didi is not doing anything to make them feel any better.

You must be to comment.
  1. Aditya

    Fare hike was inevitable. We dont want indian railways to be like indian airways but the info given in this article is not complete one. In some cases hike has been around 30% or more. Delhi to Mumbai rajdhani ac first class price has been increased by Rs 431.

  2. Saif Ahmad Khan

    Mamata Banerjee has had the habit of being an in-house rebel & in that she easily surpasses Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar who is the Congress’s most famous iconoclast. But the problem with Mamata is that she has now started sounding ridiculously populist-ic & has become a pseudo rebel. Her histrionics & antics are bound to backfire because the electorate has become a lot more mature now & they have the kind of intellect required to figure out the difference between genuine crusading and mere posturing for the purpose of attracting media glare & popularity. Mamata might be interested in Mid-term polls because she thinks that her honeymoon is still on in West Bengal & she intends to cash in on it but the situation would turn out to be dismal for her because she hasn’t done anything substantial as an administrator till now & continues to conduct herself in the same fashion (that of a street fighter) which is not acceptable from a person heading a State Cabinet. All the moves of her party have been very ironic. She was the part of the GOM which sanctioned the hike in fuel prices & later on she went all out to condemn the move publicly & asked for a rollback. Her party supported the Lokpal & Lokayuktas Bill in the Lok Sabha but threatened to block it in the Rajya Sabha because of her concerns for federalism. We all know about FDI in Retail which was suspended by Didi’s intervention & the latest is obviously the fiasco involving the Railway Minister & the increase in fares across the board. This kind of tomfoolery and ‘makkari’ wont go down well with the electorate.

  3. abhishek chaudhary

    I think facts need to rechecked..coz..its 19 mlas or Mps..please clarify..

  4. anand

    Mukul Roy honge naye Rail Minister … Yaad aaya ye kaun hain ? Jor daliye … ek Train accident ke baad Jab PM ne wahan jane ko kaha to is Janab ne mana kar diya.Bole ye kaam adhikari kar lenge .. tab ye state minister the. .. ab ye Rail minister honge ! khuda khair kare !

  5. Aadil

    If one wants to see the development in the railway sector, this plan must be executed. Even Mamta Banerjee 2020 vision showed the plans that are covered in Dinesh Trivedi’s budget. Railway development is must if one wants safety and other amenities. The sudden increase in fare is the major problem, because former railway ministers took pride in not increasing the railway fare and when Dinesh did something like that to bring reform, all questioned him with his ideas!

  6. Rishadchinoy

    I am thoroughly confused- how come the TMC objects to a hike in the railway fares, but permits a retrospective increase in tarriff by CESC (run by the Goenka’s). Passengers have options to reduce their cost of travel by reducing the frequency /  change class of travel, but the domestic consumers of electricity have no option but to “grin and bear it”.

    Can someone enlighten me?

    Since Mamata is so electorial minded, how does one broadcast the compromises that will need to be made due to the absence of the railway fare hike, and the problems that will be faced by the domestic consumers of electricity in paying the higher tarriff with retrospective effect for 4 years?

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