The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo books the best for home & Left

New Delhi, July 6: If Laloo Prasad Yadav wheeled Indian Railways’ express trains towards his constituency Chhapra, the Left powered its locos to the two states it rules — Bengal and Kerala.

But the Left and Bihar were not the only beneficiaries of Laloo Prasad’s largesse. The DMK, a key partner in the Congress-led coalition government, also managed to get a considerable share of new trains, railway lines and projects.

Congress-ruled states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Punjab were the other major beneficiaries.

The biggest loser this time round was Uttar Pradesh, ruled by the other Yadav, Mulayam Singh, whose frosty ties with Laloo Prasad are well known. The state had consistently gained during every railway budget from the days of railway minister Kamlapati Tripathy who ruled Rail Bhavan in the 1970s and the early 1980s.

BJP-ruled Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were the other states with little to show after years of being showered with railway projects.

Despite the railway minister’s assertion that he was “minister for the whole of India and not just Bihar”, Laloo Prasad followed his arch political rival Nitish Kumar in pandering to his state’s needs.

The minister rewarded the state with a wheel and axle manufacturing plant at Chhapra, the constituency which returned him to Parliament. The project could cost the railway as much as Rs 1,500 crore and, when completed, would employ nearly 1,000 workers.

The former railway hub of Jamalpur in Bihar is being sought to be revived with a new wagons project which could attract investment worth several thousand crores of rupees.

Three new lines will be built through the heartland of Bihar and railway lines will be doubled in four sections running through Barauni, Katihar, Chhapra and Mansi.

Besides, an alternative rail network will be developed through Gaya, which is expected to generate employment for 10,000 people.

Five new trains, including a Sampark Kranti Express, go towards Bihar’s railway harvest for the year, which tops all the sops the state received through Nitish Kumar’s two-year tenure as railway minister.

The Left’s gain, too, has not been insignificant.

Kerala, which has been hardly a blip on the Indian Railway map, shoved its way up with a third of the total new lines being electrified this year going to the southern state and work being sanctioned on doubling the Kozhikode-Shoranur section.

Former railway minister Mamata Banerjee’s taunt that despite the Congress-led alliance boasting 41 out of Bengal’s 42 MPs, it could bag just one new train rang true.

However, the fine print reveals that the railway minister has been actually more than partisan towards his Left friends whose support was crucial to his electoral victory and is likely to prove just as important in the Bihar Assembly elections which are round the corner.

Four long-distance trains from Bengal saw their frequencies being increased. Bengal bagged the second largest share of new railway lines. Gauge conversion is also expected to gain ground.

But the cherry on the cake for the Left is the order to manufacture some 20,000 wagons, including backlogs. Most wagons used by the railway are bought from Bengal’s wagon-makers, whose monopoly hold over the market is likely to remain for some more time to come.

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