Pime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee have hailed Mamata Banerjee’s budget loudly Congress president Sonia Gandhi repeatedly thumped the desk in appreciation while Mamata read out her speech.
“It is a common man’s budget without any increase in freight and passenger fares. It will help weaken inflation,” Singh told reporters soon after the railway minister finished her budget speech today.
The Prime Minister applauded Mamata for having balanced inflation concerns with other priorities. “She has taken care to increase investment in critical areas of infrastructure which would supplement growth momentum of the economy. The railway minister has done a commendable job,” he said.
Pranab Mukherjee echoed Singh, saying Mamata had presented a “good budget” despite the difficult financial situation arising out of increased wage burden. “She has to work in a very difficult situation and on the whole, it is a good budget.”
The wage burden stemmed from implementing salary hikes recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission. “Even so, the railways have recommended a dividend of 6 per cent to the general exchequer. The gross budgetary support this year will be Rs 20,000 crore for various projects the railway minister has announced,” Mukherjee said.
Banerjee’s arch rival, CPM, which leads the Left Front Government in Bengal, understandably refrained from attacking her for being West Bengal-centric. But the party alleged that she had “played tricks and cunningly juggled” figures to show improved financial position of the railways. Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said the minister has played with figures to project an operating ratio of 91.1% for 2011-12 which he claimed has touched 115%.
CPI’s D. Raja said that there is nothing spectacular. Congress Spokesman Manish Tiwari said the budget shows the concerns and sensitivity towards common man.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, the main Opposition, said the exercise was de-void of any road map for Indian Railways. “BJP demands that a performance budget should be presented by the government to inform the nation as to what its performance level has been in relation to the promises made by it,” the party said in a statement.
The party’s deputy Lok Sabha leader Gopinath Munde, who dubbed the Railway Budget as a ‘fraud on the people’ told reporters that it was intended only for West Bengal. About the projects for Singur and Nandigram, the two political hot-spots in West Bengal where the Trinamool Congress has been upsetting the Left Front’s political prospects, BJP said the minister should spell out how land would be made available.