When the whole of Kerala is wearing poll colours, why should the Railways be an exception?
A couple of days ago, the Mangalore-Nagercoil Eranadu Express drew a collective gasp from waiting passengers as it chugged into the Thiruvananthapuram Central railway terminal. Much to their surprise, its compartments were draped in communist red, and images of the CPM’s tallest leaders seemed to pop out of the poll material at regular intervals.
The Leftists, however, are not the only ones to have opted for the Railway tactic. While the Left Democratic Front ‘recruited’ three trains to its cause, the Congress-led United Democratic Front and Bharatiya Janata Party bagged two trains each.
Advertisements have been a part of the Railway’s monetisation strategy for decades now, but this is the first time it has taken a turn for the political. With seven popular trains lending four coaches each to the cause of political campaigning, the cash-strapped Railways are laughing all the way to the bank. Political parties are coughing up Rs 48,000 for each coach, and the government entity is expected to pocket as much as Rs 60 lakh in just two weeks.
“We are flooded with enquiries. Funds obtained from passenger and freight fares aren’t enough; the Railways are planning to further increase its collection by tapping into unconventional sources,” said a senior Railways official from Thiruvananthapuram division.
Besides draping trains in political colours, the Railways also plan on introducing political announcements at stations to bring in some extra money.