Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi to inculcate the "Gandhian way of austerity" by travelling in general compartments of trains. But Lalu did not commit whether he along with party leaders would follow the same.
“Giving suggestions to people on the issue will not suffice. It should begin from people at the top, including Gandhi and Singh, besides Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. They should start travelling by trains in third class or general bogies so that the message percolates to the lower level”, he said while addressing a gathering in Patna to mark the death anniversary of former minister Jagdish Prasad.
The LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan and several former ministers were also present.
Pointing to UPA chairperson’s Sonia Gandhi and finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s gesture to travel by economy class, Lalu said it was a good initiative but more need to be done.
“All central and state ministers and those holding high constitutional positions should start traveling by train, it would boost railways revenue. Just imagine, how much it will help Mamata Behan (Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee) in saving substantial revenue for the railways”, the RJD chief said.
That apart, Lalu also said that politicians should eschew the habit of hiring choppers for campaigning. “I am myself discontinuing traveling by chopper. It would save so much of fuel and help us to interact with masses by traveling by road,” he said.
In some ways, Lalu’s sarcasm filled statements on austerity appeared more like an oblique attack by the RJD chief against the Congress for trying to gain political mileage out of its cutting –cost measure.
“Congress led government is talking of austerity apparently because there is a financial crunch. Drought is said to be ther reason. It is good gesture but more should be done,” he said.
Lalu also took a dig at the Nitish Kumar government stating that kidnappings were taking place with regularity but the administration was doing little. “The government should recover the seven year old abducted boy Shrestha,” he said.