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Fast-track Lalu claims top spot
- I am Minister No. 1, says railway man

Patna, Nov. 19: If wishes were horses, Lalu Prasad would be Manmohan Singh’s best minister.

Say that again and you’ll be called a fool or, worse, a buffoon.

“I’m Minister Number One,” Lalu Prasad declared today and not for nothing. Give him another year and he will deliver a profit of Rs 20,000 crore for the railways, the minister said in Chhapra, his constituency.

That number may be a touch too ambitious even for the extraordinarily performing railways which have leapt from the deficit to the surplus side under Lalu Prasad, but the profits (or fund balance as they are called in the railways) in 2006-07 are expected to be Rs 13,000 crore.

The railway minister’s expression of pride in his ward came as he opened a series of railway schemes. “Sixteen lakh railway employees and officers have contributed to my pride and I am definitely the country’s number one minister today.”

Lalu Prasad said the projected 11 per cent increase in the railways’ profit during the current financial year was nothing short of a “chamatkar” (miracle).

Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister who snatched the Patna crown from Lalu Prasad, chose not to comment on his “No. 1” claim, but in the past he has said that much of the railways’ success story was scripted during his time in the ministry.

Party colleagues once, the two are now bitter enemies. “This is a (Nitish’s) government of mere announcements. I do not know if roads will ever be constructed in Bihar but I have much to do in the remaining two and a half years. The railways’ profit is likely to go up to Rs 20,000 crore next year,” Lalu Prasad said.

Often held responsible in the past for Bihar’s misgovernance, Lalu Prasad is now a convert to performance-linked politics. Or so it seems.

His enemy, on the other hand, is claiming to be turning Bihar around. Nitish said he would unveil his government’s report card on November 24. “The three sectors where we have performed well are human development, infrastructure development and law and order,” he said.

If true, the two enemies together will be creating a new image — that Bihar can be governed and Biharis can govern, in Patna and Delhi.

And, probably to prove all this is not wishful thinking, Lalu Prasad sold his last remaining horse, Pawan, today.

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