The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata refuses to travel on Nitish rail

Sept. 15: Mamata Banerjee today vowed not to travel on train as long as bete noire Nitish Kumar remained railway minister.

Addressing a party workers’ convention at the Raiganj Institute Hall, the former railway minister said she had taken the decision to protest against the poor services and safety of train passengers in the country.

“Even my dead body will not be carried on train as long as Nitish Kumar remains at the helm,” the Trinamul Congress chief said to the applause of party workers.

Mamata, on her two-day trip to Dinajpur, said Nitish had transferred “everybody, from officials to clerks” after he took over as railway minister. She said they were shifted because they were “all close to me”. “He has acted vindictively against all these staff,” Mamata added.

The Trinamul chief accused Nitish of scrapping the projects she had proposed as railway minister on “some pretext or the other”. “The services and safety of the passengers have come down to such a level during his tenure that I have decided not to travel on trains in protest,” she said.

The simmering tension between the present and former railway ministers came in the open after Nitish waved the green flag to the Hajipur-based East-Central Railway by carving out Eastern Railway, headquartered in Calcutta.

After failing to get Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to stall the project, the Trinamul leader walked out of the National Democratic Alliance in a huff and decided to suspend ties with the ruling coalition.

Without referring to the Rajdhani Express accident, Mamata devoted the better part of her speech in Raiganj to criticising the railway minister.

The Trinamul leader also came down heavily on Congress MP from Raiganj Priya Ranjan Das Munshi. “Priyada released a forged letter to the media that I had suggested that the Katihar division be added to Eastern Railway. But I never made any such suggestion when I was railway minister. But then, what else can you expect from him,” she said.

In the neighbouring district of Dakshin Dinajpur, where she had addressed a party convention last night, Mamata had steered clear of any reference to the railway or Nitish Kumar. Instead, she had explained why she had quit as Union minister.

The Trinamul leader, addressing the convention at Gangrampur, said she had repeatedly quit the ministry to “test herself” on whether she could live without power. “I walk proudly in Delhi because they all know that I don’t care about power,” she said.

Accusing the police of harassing common people “in the name of a hunt for KLO activists”, Mamata said her party would challenge the local court’s decision to exonerate minister of state for transport and Gangrampur MLA Narayan Biswas of rioting and attempted-murder charges. “We are ready to go to the Supreme Court, if necessary,” she said.

Trinamul will go it alone in the coming panchayat elections. “We had made the mistake of aligning with the Congress the last time. We are not going to repeat it,” Mamata said. Trinamul is the only Opposition party in the state, she claimed.

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