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One of the best budgets ever: Cong

New Delhi, Feb. 26: Congress leaders today lauded the railway budget as “one of the best… ever tabled in Parliament”.

The party said the absence of headline-grabbing relief for the common man was because of the narrow framework for the exercise, with the focus on safety, expansion and fare.

“Pawan Bansal has done a good job, extracting the rail budget from the abyss of populism but he couldn’t have reduced passenger fares to create sensation,” a party general secretary said.

Party leaders explained that the focus on passenger safety, elimination of level crossings, fiscal discipline, rationalisation of the fare structure and a clear roadmap for improving the railway network were important features of this budget — the first by a Congress railway minister in a decade and a half.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh complimented Bansal. “The minister for railways has done a commendable job in meeting competing demands of improving and increasing services for commuters and controlling expenditure of his department. It is a reformist and forward-looking budget which presents a realistic picture of railway finances,” he said.

P. Chidambaram, too, praised Bansal’s pragmatism: “It is a remarkable and commendable budget. It is a responsible and practical one…”

The party dismissed as “outrageous” the BJP’s description of the budget as a “Rae Bareli budget”, with Bansal saying the main Opposition was “good at coining phrases but nothing exceptional” had been done for Rae Bareli. “If the area is anathema for them, I can’t do anything about it.”

Among the rail-based industries to be set up is a wheel factory at Rae Bareli, Sonia Gandhi’s seat.

Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said: “There is a project in Rae Bareli that is situated in the heart of India but there are new projects for Haryana, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Chandigarh.”