Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot termed "unfortunate" Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remark that railways had become an arena of politics under previous governments, saying his comments on Wednesday were made with an eye on the coming assembly and general elections.
Gehlot said it was not fair to say the development of the national transporter happened only after 2014.
"Today, your speech was given completely keeping in view the 2023-24 assembly and Lok Sabha elections and it was in the form of the election agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party. I believe that such comments will not be acceptable to the people of the state and the country," the Rajasthan chief minister said.
He said in a statement it was "unfortunate" that the prime minister talked about the decisions taken during the tenure of earlier railway ministers as being influenced by corruption and political considerations.
Launching the first Vande Bharat train of Rajasthan earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Modi said the railways had become an arena of politics under previous governments and political considerations affected its modernisation.
"It is our country's misfortune that an important system like the railways, which is such a big part in the lives of common people, was turned into an arena of politics," he said, adding "things changed" after the country got a stable government in 2014.
PM Modi launched the Vande Bharat Express train, which will connect Ajmer with Delhi Cantonment, via video conferencing during a programme organised at the Jaipur railway station. Besides Chief Minister Gehlot, Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra and Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw attended the programme.
At the event, before the prime minister spoke, Gehlot said the train was a "big gift" for Rajasthan.
He said there is a great need for development of railways in Rajasthan due to its geographically distinct identity.
"Railways has an important contribution in the social, cultural and economic development of the country. The changes brought about in the railways after independence are the result of the thinking of our great leaders and the hard work of the dedicated railway employees and officers. Along with passenger and goods transport, railways has also rendered its important services in times of natural calamity and war in the country," he said.
However, Gehlot responded to PM Modi's comments made at the launch.
The chief minister said in an attempt to reduce the importance of railways, the Centre abolished the separate railway budget during PM Modi's tenure.
Gehlot said if the modern train is able to run today, it is because of Manmohan Singh, who as the finance minister did economic liberalisation in 1991 and gave new technology an opportunity to develop India.
"Technological advancements have taken place all over the world over time, due to which new technology has also come in India and there have been improvements in the railways,” he said.
Gehlot also named former railway ministers in his statement such as Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram, Sardar Swaran Singh, Gulzari Lal Nanda, K Hanumanthaiya, Lalit Narayan Mishra, Kamlapati Tripathi, Madhu Dandavate, PC Sethi, ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury, Mohsina Kidwai, Madhavrao Scindia, George Fernandes, Janeshwar Mishra, CK Jafarsharif, Ram Vilas Paswan, Nitish Kumar, Ram Nayak, Mamata Banerjee and Mallikarjun Kharge.
The Vande Bharat is Rajasthan's first semi-high-speed train, which will reduce the travel time between Ajmer and Delhi. Its regular service will start from April 13 and will have stops in Jaipur, Alwar and Gurgugram.
Gehlot has urged Vaishnaw to connect the headquarters of Banswara, Tonk, Karauli with the railways.
He said a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Rajasthan government and the Railway Board for the rail service between Dungarpur-Banswara-Ratlam section.
He said the foundation stone of a railway line was laid in Banswara, but this work of public interest did not progress further. Gehlot urged the railways to give priority to this project.
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