New Delhi: The Opposition on Tuesday slammed the Rail Budget for increasing the burden on the common man, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) terming it as "pedestrian" and "discriminatory" while Left said it does not give any hope on railways' future. Key outside UPA allies Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party too were unhappy saying it was anti-poor and ignored areas of Uttar Pradesh which need rail infrastructure for economic development.
BJP leader Gopinath Munde said it was more of a 'Rae Bareli budget', claiming it has favoured Sonia Gandhi's constituency while SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said it was a "budget for the Congress". "This is not rail budget but Rae Bareli budget. This budget has not been prepared keeping in mind the whole country and this is the reason one could see an attempt to disrupt the budget presentation due to unrest among the MPs," Munde, who Deputy Leader of BJP, told reporters outside Parliament.
The main opposition claimed that the NDA ruled states had been discriminated against. "Especially, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh have been totally ignored and there are no new schemes for these states. This budget is for Amethi, Rae Bareli and Chandigarh. This is a discriminatory budget," he said.
Former Finance Minister and MP Yashwant Sinha described the Railway budget as "very, very pedestrian" and a "political budget" aimed at the forthcoming general elections. "The rail minister acknowledged that railway finances were not properly handled during the previous years which led to the present situation. The PM was listening. This PM had earlier said that the Budget is good, this year also he is saying the same thing irrespective of who the rail minister is," Sinha said.
He alleged that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was responsible for the poor financial condition of railways. BSP supremo Mayawati said the rail budget was a "disappointment".
"The poor and middle classes will not benefit much from it.... Fare has been hiked through backdoor," she said, a charge echoed by the Left parties which claimed that the Rail Minister had camouflaged the hike. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the budget will have cascading effect on prices and "no of its plans are likely to fructify".
Meanwhile, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar described the Rail Budget as "disappointing" and alleged that while Congress ruled states were given sops, other states including Bihar have been neglected. "The Rail Budget for 2013-14 is disappointing," Kumar, who served as Railway Minister in the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, told reporters here.
He accused the UPA II government of "lacking courage" and resorting to "cleverness" by increasing fares in the month of January itself and not announcing any hike in the budget presented in Parliament on Tuesday. "On the one hand the government is claiming it did not raise fare but on the other hand other charges of tatkal and cancellation etc have been increased which will adversely hit the passengers," he said.
"No new train has been given to Bihar despite the fact that it has maximum number of train travellers in the country. Besides, fund for past projects like rail bridge over Ganga at Patna and Munger has also not been allocated," he said. In a veiled attack on his rival Lalu Prasad Yadav, Kumar said "the condition of Railways started deteriorating since days of UPA I (when Prasad was Railways Minister) and the speed has increased with passing of times."
Taking a potshot at the current Railways Minister for announcing search of new technology to stop collision of trains, Kumar sought to know why anti-collision devices developed by the Konkan Railways, which he had introduced during his time in NF Railways and which yielded good results, was stopped. Kumar also criticised the announcement of new projects without making proper arrangements for gathering funds and taking other clearances. "The NDA government had stopped this practise (announcing projects without required clearances) but its been resumed again now, which is unfortunate," he added.
"I find this budget is going to be a burden on the people. This budget does not give any hope to the future of the railways," said CPI's D Raja said. "The budget has no innovative project to ensure safety, modernisation and cleanliness of Railways," the Forward Bloc said.
Terming the railway budget as a "major disappointment," Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said the hike in supplementary and freight charges would cause an increase in the prices of essential commodities and fuel inflation. The budget was "uninspiring" and lacked any long-term perspective with regard to infrastructure development, she said in a statement in Chennai.
"I have never seen such an anti-people budget in my political life.... This is a budget for Congress...you can give new trains for Rae Bareli (Lok Sabha constituency of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi), but don't ignore Bundelkhand and Poorvanchal," Mulayam said.
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain alleged that the Rail budget had catered only to the Congress constituencies and it will give rise to inflation. "I think is an ordinary budget. It lacks vision for the future," he said. "With the establishment of a National Tariff Commission the government has prepared an instrument to increase prices whenever the price of diesel or power is increased," he said.
Sinha claimed as unprecedented that members troop into the Well of the House during a Railway Budget presentation as was seen on Tuesday. "If the PM is strong, a good budget will be presented, if he is weak then, you can't blame the alliance. In every rail budget, regional aspirations are visible. If an MP is not satisfied with the Budget due to lack of announcement for his region, then there is ruckus in the House which we saw today," he said.