The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Solace show on political platform
- Rival heavyweights and helping hands jostle for mileage at railway station

As a platform for Bengal politics, there was nothing like Howrah station on Wednesday. From the CPM to arch rival Trinamul Congress; from Trinamul’s mother party (the Congress), to its faction (led by Ajit Panja), everyone was there to “help” those ruined on the wrecked Rajdhani.

Late on Tuesday, the spotlight was on Mamata Banerjee and Subhas Chakraborty. The two heavyweights from rival camps waited patiently, united in their “concern for the victims and their families”. Even after the special train pulled into platform no. 8, they steered clear of the crowds and watched till the last of the injured had been taken away.

Madan Mitra took centrestage, as Trinamul men swamped the station. “Two Metro Railway officials are on the list of victims,” said Mitra, who is also leader of the strongest Metro staff union. “We are here primarily to help them but can’t refuse anyone else who seeks our support.” The two Metro men were going to Delhi on official work.

The Ajit Panja faction, too, made its presence seen, as his followers flocked to the latest political stage. “We would have, anyway, set up a counter at Howrah station, as Ajitda is organising a march to Writers' Buildings,” announced one. So, there were numerous buntings exhorting people to join the leader of the Trinamul splinter group in its crusade against “Left Front misrule”. Almost as an after-thought, a hastily-prepared poster proclaimed that the counter had actually been set up to help relatives and friends of passengers on Monday's Rajdhani Express.

The Congress bench had several leaders, including a host of student leaders. Each read out his name before announcing that he/she was there "to help no one in particular… We are there to help people in general".

The CPM pressed minister of state for health Pratyush Mukherjee into action. He did not waste any opportunity to blame the BJP-led government for putting more stress — and money— on carving up railway zones than passenger safety and maintenance of train and track. Mukherjee said there was no information about former CPM Howrah MP Sushanta Chakraborty, who was on that train. “We are trying our best to get some information, despite the railway authorities' non-cooperation.”

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