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Are we beggars? Mamata

Mamata Banerjee

July 8: Mamata Banerjee today said Bengal had been “deprived” in the railway budget and made it clear that “we won’t take this lying down”.

Addressing a rally in Hooghly, the chief minister said “my heart burns” at the way the state was ignored by the Narendra Modi government.

“During my tenure as railway minister twice, I had allotted 300 new trains for Bengal. But this time, only one weekly new train has been allotted. This is nothing. Are we beggars?” she asked.

Mamata added: “They (the BJP government) can take back the new train because Bengal is not a beggar. Fortunately, I was not in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. I don’t know how I would have reacted to this. My heart burns at this insult to the people of Bengal. We won’t take this lying down.”

The Centre has allotted two new trains for Bengal — Paradip-Howrah weekly express and Shalimar-Chennai premium AC express.

Although the chief minister did not elaborate on the course of the agitation, Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said the party would launch a “vigorous movement” against the Centre across the state.

“Our party workers and those from frontal organisations like Trinamul Yuva, Trinamul Youth Congress and Trinamul Chhatra Parishad will participate in a sustained agitation against the Centre from tomorrow,” Chatterjee told reporters at Trinamul Bhavan when Mamata was addressing the rally.

Trinamul insiders saw in the agitation against the Centre an attempt by the ruling party to deflect attention from the Tapas Paul “rape-and-shoot” speech.

“The railway budget has given us an opportunity to launch a movement against the Centre. We will use it politically to deflect people’s attention from the Tapas Paul episode,” said a Trinamul vice-president. “Tapas Paul’s inflammatory speech has embarrassed us a lot.”

Mamata also blasted the Centre for raising passenger fares. “What’s even more ominous is its decision to link the fare with diesel price. Now whenever there is a hike in diesel price, the rail fare will go up. This is not acceptable,” she said.

The chief minister was also critical of the Centre’s decision to introduce FDI in the railways. “By introducing FDI in defence and railways, they are going to sell the entire country. Where will domestic business and industry go?” she asked.

‘Unfortunate’

Mamata has described as “unfortunate” the ruckus involving Trinamul MPs in the Lok Sabha.

“Party MP Kalyan Banerjee informed me about how they were attacked by BJP MPs in the Lok Sabha when they were protesting the railway budget. I am disgusted with what has happened to my MPs. I am shocked by the way they used filthy language against some of our women MPs,” she said, talking to reporters after chairing an administrative meeting with Hooghly district officials at Vidyasagar Bhavan.

The chief minister also took a dig at the BJP for “functioning like an autocrat”. “Since they have the majority (in the House), they are functioning like an autocrat. I have never heard of a raid being conducted in a governor’s house,” she said, referring to CBI officials’ visit to Raj Bhavan to interview former governor M.K. Narayanan as a witness on the multi-crore AgustaWestland deal.