When minister DV Sadananda Gowda stood up in the Lok Sabha to present his maiden railway budget, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stamp was hard to miss.
Three times in his address, Gowda mentioned “Modi ji” — a stark contrast to the previous regime when Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s name often resonated more than PM Manmohan Singh’s.
If the proposal for innovation and incubation centres was inspired by Modi’s call for out-of-the-box ideas, a special Swami Vivekananda train to “inculcate good moral values”, too, seemed to have the PM’s blessings. While campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls, Modi often invoked Swami Vivekananda, who he sees as an inspirational figure, to strike a chord with young voters.
Giving his thumbs up, the PM said, “The budget will speed up development, modernise railways and provide greater security and services.” “An institution like the railways cannot be run in an ad-hoc manner. Institutional mechanisms are required for decision-making, vision and initiatives,” Modi said in a video posted after the budget.
The Congress, however, dismissed the budget as “unimaginative”. “The budget lacks vision. Congress-ruled states left out. No pro-poor tilt and there is nothing for Kerala and West Bengal,” party vice-president Rahul Gandhi said .
The Biju Janata Dal took a dig at the government for “hailing” the PPP (public-private partnership) model as a fix for all that ails the railways.
Trinamool chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, “They promised acche din (good days) but bure din (bad times) have come instead.”
The budget was designed to burden the common man “who need the railways the most”, Communist Party of India (Marxist) said.
But, Modi’s home state Gujarat and constituency Varanasi would have little to complain. Along with several projects for Gujarat, the western state’s largest city Ahmedabad got three new trains — bullet as well as high-speed — that will link it to Mumbai.
Railways’ will run special milk-carriers in association with Gujarat-based National Dairy Development Board and Amul. The holy city of Varanasi got five trains.
A rail university, said the minister, would be set up with emphasis on skill development — another of Modi’s thrust areas.