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Many a slip between Left hand & right

Feb. 26: On Lalu Prasad’s big day, the Left hand may not have known what the right hand was doing.

As the railway minister today announced the dole earmarked for each state’s kitty, a clutch of Left MPs from Bengal grew terribly agitated, kicked up a hue and cry and stomped straight out of Parliament.

Not so their colleagues from Kerala: they stayed put in their seats, looking smug and satisfied with the four new trains, a coach factory and some more that had come their way.

Bengal had got four new trains too, which was little compared with what poll-bound states had been given but probably not little enough to merit a walkout.

“We staged a walkout against privatisation and Bengal being neglected. I don’t think the Kerala MPs understood what was happening, so they stayed on,” CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta said later.

The Left would not admit to a split of opinion in their ranks. C.S. Sujatha of the Kerala CPM virtually echoed Gurudas when she said “we strongly oppose the privatisation moves” but possibly put her foot in her mouth when she added: “We are happy as far as what Kerala has got.”

Any hint of regionalism there from a party that has always claimed to be centrist? Gurudas did not fare better either, having earlier mentioned “Bengal being neglected”.

The same Left-hand-right-hand syndrome played itself out in Bengal. State finance minister Asim Dasgupta said the rail budget had “deprived” Bengal but CPM state secretary Biman Bose insisted it did not deserve “strong criticism”.

“More trains should have been introduced in Bengal as passenger traffic is increasing by the day. In respect of suburban trains, the ministry could have similarly increased the quota. But nothing of that sort happened. So our state has been deprived. But we welcome a drop in fares,” Asim said.

Bose, as well as CPM state secretariat member Shyamal Chakraborty, patted Lalu Prasad. “The rail budget this time does not deserve strong criticism,” Bose said.

“The budgets made during the UPA tenure have not always been pro-people. They did not help people’s struggle for livelihood; particularly, sectors like health and education were neglected. In comparison, this rail budget has some good aspects also.”

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would only say: “Asim has said whatever had to be said.”

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