New Delhi, Feb 26: The ruling Congress and its union ministers Tuesday praised the railway budget as “commendable” while the opposition, including the BJP and the Left, criticised it as “disappointing” and an eyewash.
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s maiden budget “is a very commendable budget”.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the railway minister has “managed an all-India perspective” in the budget and “without succumbing to populist pressure it has done good economics and good politics.”
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh accused the UPA government of a lack of vision to revive the railways and said the common man has been forced to pay for mounting losses in the carrier.
In a statement on the railway budget, he said the move to keep train fares unchanged was an “eyewash”.
BJP leader Balbir Punj termed the budget as “very, very disappointing” and said it was “high on promises, low on performance… There is nothing to report in the budget,” while his party colleague Prakash Javadekar sought to know why the government was increasing the fare in a hidden manner.
“This is not a railway budget, but a farewell budget for the government. It is rather Rae Bareli budget,” Javadekar said, referring to the parliamentary constituency of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
BJP leader Gopinath Munde described it as “anti-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) budget”, alleging it has not much to offer to the states ruled by the opposition parties.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury slammed the government for “camouflaged” hikes in the budget.
“The hikes are camouflaged. Though the fare has not been hiked, the service charges, reservation charges and other charges that have been increased will ultimately result in a hike in the overall fare,” Yechury told reporters.
“Moreover, the hike in freight charges will have a spiralling effect on inflation,” he said.
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said: “I commend the budget. It is a very practical and useful budget that will in years to come…take care of railways with its own resources to serve passengers.”
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati said the budget has ignored the poor and middle class. “The poor and middle class travel more by railways.. These people don’t stand to benefit much from the budget,” she said.
She criticised the railway minister for “claiming” that he did not hike the passenger fare, saying it was already done earlier.
“And to say that fares will be reviewed twice a year means that they will keep raising the fares,” she said.
She also criticised the hike in freight rates, saying it would have an impact on the prices of commodities and hit the poor and middle classes.
Mayawati said that railways always promise good services but have nothing to show.
“The stations are filthy, the food is bad… They don’t think of providing good services,” she said.