With Mukul Roy’s exit as the railway minister, uncertainty looms large over the fate of ongoing rail projects in West Bengal costing more than R70,000 crore. The portfolio may now go to the Congress.
The last Congressman to be in charge of the ministry was Suresh Kalmadi in 1995-’96.
In the last 15 years or so, the portfolio has been mostly held by leaders of coalition partners, such as Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP) and Nitish Kumar (JD-U).
In UPA-II, Roy was the third Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader to hold office as the railway minister after Mamata Banerjee and Dinesh Trivedi. They had together showered Bengal with 17 projects for new lines, four gauge conversion projects and 42 doubling projects estimated to cost around R30, 000 crore. Metro projects in Kolkata were in addition.
Work on another 16 big projects in the state costing R30,000 crore more had also been announced. These included an EMU coach factory at Kanchrapara; a wagon manufacturing factory at Kulti and an electric loco assembly and ancillary unit at Dankuni.
“The Bengal Express is now likely to get derailed. The future minister is unlikely to have the same focus,” an official said.
Several of the projects are at the take-off stage. The unit at Kulti is scheduled for inauguration in 2012-’13, while the electronic signal production unit at New Coochbehar is expected to become operational in June next year. The Diesel Multiple Unit factory at Haldia is slated for inauguration in January 2013.