Railway ministry officials are anticipating a rough ride under Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee after five comfortable years with Lalu Prasad, whose interventions in policy matters were limited to a standard noting of “as per rules” on official files.
“Under Lalu, we pretty much had the run of the place,” said one official, who did not want to be named. “The nitty-gritty was handled by Sudhir Kumar, who was officer on special duty.”
But all that is set to change. “Didi has already declared that she and other Trinamool Congress ministers will spend the better part of their tenure in Kolkata,” a senior aide of Banerjee said. “She will be in Kolkata five days a week, and in Delhi the remaining two.” Banerjee’s staff is already looking for a “camp office” for her in Kolkata, the aide said.
Thanks to Cyclone Aila, Banerjee had to cancel her visit to New Delhi on Monday to take charge of her portfolio. But, in what is being regarded as an unprecedented move, instead of proceeding to New Delhi to take charge at the railway headquarters, she will now take charge at the Eastern Railway headquarters in Kolkata on Tuesday, said Samir Goswami, ER chief public relations officer.
Banerjee will then board an “inspection train” and travel to Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas; the coastal region has been hit hardest by Cyclone Aila. A symbolic move, it speaks volumes for Didi’s priority —West Bengal.
Banerjee’s camp has indicated that Gautam Sanyal, her personal secretary during her earlier stint as coal minister, will be back as an executive director in the railways. “Look forward to many more trains and coach factories for Bengal as the assembly elections are due in 2011,” said one official.
Didi’s promise of a railway pass at Rs20 for the unorganised sector, among other populist measures, have rung alarm bells in the ministry.