'Doubting thomases' questioning the claims of a turnaround in the loss-making Indian Railways have raised the ire of Lalu Yadav who has been trying hard to project the image of a very successful Central Minister ever since his party lost the reins of power in Bihar.
To counter his opponents' allegations of misrule and sloppy administration during his stewardship of the state and under wife Rabri Devi, the RJD chief is now keen to project himself as an efficient and capable administrator under whose leadership the Railways has come out of the red in record time.
But the media hype on the Railways' success story under Lalu has perhaps got overdone, with the result that it has started being questioned in certain quarters. These include his two bitter opponents in Bihar politics, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, both former Railway Ministers, who do not lose a single opportunity to pick holes in Lalu’s claims.
And this has upset the Minister who attempted to set the record straight on Wednesday while taking a dig at the "so-called intellectuals" and "reputed economists" who were "worried" whether the turnaround was real.
He pointed out that top business schools in India and abroad were studying the "magical transformation" that had taken place in the Railways' leading to a profit of more than Rs 13,000 crore within 13 months. The profit was expected to touch the figure of Rs 20,000 crore by the end of the year.
"I want to inform the so-called intellectuals that it is not merely a consequence of the boom taking place in the economy but it is on account of a historical shift in the thinking, strategy and style of working in the Railways," he said while addressing the Economic Editors' Conference.
This unprecedented change was the result of optimum utilisation of physical and human assets, a dynamic and tariff-driven market policy, priority to investments in projects that could give maximum returns at the lowest cost and in the least time and delegation of authority to senior officers of the ministry, Lalu explained.
The strategy had started showing results and now his target is to make Indian Railways the "number one railway" in the world, he stated.
Over the past decades, the investment level in Railways had remained low due to its poor financial health. But now an ambitious plan had been prepared for its expansion and modernisation that involved an expenditure of more than one lakh crore rupees over the next five years, according to him.