The Congress and other opposition parties picked holes in rail budget 2015 but railway minister Suresh Prabhu should take heart that the BJP gave him a thumbs-up for putting the nation’s public transport monolith on the reforms track.
The rivals were unhappy on many counts: “zero new trains”; no passenger fare cuts despite a fall in global crude oil prices; and freight rate hike that might spike prices of several essentials.
“A trained chartered accountant has derailed the budget,” said Congress spokesperson Rajiv Gowda, accusing the minister of leaning towards the elite.
Senior party colleague Mallikarjun Kharge agreed. “The budget is high on promises but silent on how resources will be generated.”
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, a former railway minister from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, panned the budget as “a train without any passenger”.
In Bhubaneswar, former NDA ally and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik was upset as his state was ignored for any special package along the lines of the Northeast and Kashmir regions.
AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa was happy that fares were not increased but felt people were shortchanged because no new trains were announced. Her rival and DMK chief M Karunanidhi called the budget pedestrian.
BSP president Mayawati wondered if the BJP remembered its promises made before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. “There is no relief for people,” she said.
Even BJP ally Shiv Sena, Prabhu’s former party, was unimpressed.
BJP leaders were unperturbed by the criticism. “This is the first time a reformist budget has been brought for the railways,” Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said.
Environment minister Prakash Javadekar called it a revolutionary budget while BJP chief Amit Shah hailed it as “future-oriented”.
The surprise praise came from Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who lauded the budget for its lack of populist measures.
(With inputs from Chennai, Patna, Bhubaneswar and Lucknow)