Cong wants Mamata to focus on UP, Bihar

Cong wants Mamata to focus on UP, Bihar

Budget Session: Union Finance Ministry unhappy over plans to launch Rail TV

Cong wants Mamata to focus on UP, Bihar

All smiles: Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee with Ministers of State E Ahamed and K H Muniyappa and Railway Board Chairman SS Khurana on the eve of Railway Budget in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI

While Banerjee is expected to focus more on her home-turf West Bengal, the Congress also hopes that she takes care of its own interests too – particularly in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh and poll-bound Bihar.

The proposal to launch Rail TV was mooted by the Trinamool Congress chief’s close aide and eminent Kolkata-based painter Suvaprasanna, who now heads the Ministry of Railways’ committee to oversee passenger amenities. The TV channel was conceived along the lines of Rajya Sabha TV and Lok Sabha TV in order to promote tourism and culture as well as to provide information about train services.

But, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and several other top Congress leaders have serious reservations about the economic viability of the project.


In fact, some top officials of the Ministry of Railways too raised doubts over the utility of the project and instead suggested purchasing slots on Doordarshan and other TV channels to disseminate information about train movements. It is not clear whether Banerjee would go ahead with the Rail TV project or drop it from her budget proposal.

Banerjee may announce some special trains for the benefit of the pilgrims traveling to holy places.

The Congress, however, is understood to have advised her to see that religious places of all faiths are touched by the new trains.

The Congress is believed to have conveyed to Banerjee that it does not have any problem if she doles out goodies for West Bengal to secure her party’s prospects for the 2011 assembly-polls. But the party also wants her to focus on the projects in the two key northern states too.

The Congress is trying to revive itself in Uttar Pradesh, which sends as many as 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. The assembly-polls are likely to take place in the Bahujan Samaj Party ruled state in 2012. The party is also keen to do well in Bihar, where the assembly-elections are due towards the end of this year.

Though Banerjee’s predecessor and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad had rained sops on Bihar during the UPA-government’s first tenure, many projects in the state are being delayed due to lack of funds.

Banerjee had only last week brought before the Cabinet Committee of Infrastructure (CCI) the issue of funding for an electric locomotive factory and a diesel locomotive manufacturing unit in Bihar. Both the projects had been declared by Lalu.

Family  interests

For UP, the Congress’ wish-list for Banerjee includes upgrading the Lucknow Raebareily line from single to double track and commencement of works on to the project for laying the rail-line between Shahganj and Unchahar via Sultanpur, Amethi and Salon.

Raebareilly and Amethi are fiefdoms of the Congress’ first family and represented in the Lok Sabha by Congress president Sonia Gandhi her son and general secretary Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress president had recently stepped in following a tiff between Mukherjee and Banerjee in a CCI meet over budgetary support to new rail projects.

Both the Prime Minister and Finance Minister had told Banerjee that it would be difficult to commit financial support to all the new projects proposed by the Railways Minister as the Government is trying hard to minimise the high fiscal deficit.

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