Calcutta, Sept. 25: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had admitted to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee when the latter met him last month that the bifurcation of Eastern Railway was a “political decision”.
“Then he (Vajpayee) fell into silence when I told him that a Prime Minister should rise above politics,” Bhattacharjee told representatives of all parties today at a meeting to discuss the attack on the Swaminarayan temple in Gandhinagar.
Bhattacharjee said he realised that the Prime Minister had virtually ruled out any changes in the bifurcation plan and “lost interest in the matter”. At this juncture, Left Front representatives urged the chief minister not to lose heart and said a bigger movement will be lined up in the coming days.
The Trinamul Congress representatives, Partha Chatterjee and Mukul Roy, had asked Bhattacharjee about the outcome of his meeting with Vajpayee on the rail row.
Bhattacharjee told them he informed Vajpayee that he only wanted to point out the “meaningless expenditure” of Rs 3,500 crore on the bifurcation. “I told the Prime Minister that I have not come to negotiate on the division of railway zones but want to point out the meaningless expenditure that will be incurred to effect the bifurcation. With the advancement of information technology today, all railway zones can be operated centrally,” he said, talking to reporters.
The chief minister said that during the meeting, he had also asked what should be the priority in the railway sector — better safety, security, tracks and passenger amenities or bifurcation of zones. “All earlier expert bodies, including the Rakesh Mohan Commission, (the) Planning Commission and (the) CAG, have expressed their opinion against the bifurcation. I told him (Vajpayee) that this (bifurcation) is nothing but a political decision and he admitted it. Then he became silent,” he added.
After the meeting, Trinamul MLA Partha Chatterjee said they resented the fact that the chief minister did not bother to inform the representatives of parties about the outcome of his meeting with the Prime Minister on the bifurcation. “We demanded that he should have informed us immediately after his return from New Delhi. The chief minister promised during an all-party meeting held on August 18 that he would brief us on the outcome of his meeting with the Prime Minister, but since then we have not heard from him,” he alleged.
Bhattacharjee is today echoing what Mamata Banerjee has been saying so long in protest against the proposed bifurcation, Chatterjee said. “The chief minister has agreed with us that the bifurcation will ruin Bengal’s economy and trigger ill feelings between the two neighbouring states,” he added.