Congress on Tuesday latched on to the Railway budget to claim there was a "capitalist" tilt to the functioning of the Narendra Modi government and that it was bent upon privatising the railways.
Looking to put the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) dispensation in the dock over railway budget 2014-15, Congress not only protested inside Parliament but also held an agitation outside the residence of Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda.
"(The NDA) government's direction for the country is diametrically opposite to that of the socialist path. Everything is being done to appease the capitalists. Social obligations of our (previous UPA) government have been criticised as if we'd committed a mistake in following them. We apprehend that the government is heading more and more towards privatisation," Congress MP and former Minister of State for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told reporters at an All India Congress Committee (AICC) briefing.
Earlier, Sadananda Gowda's proposal to introduce FDI in Railways seemed to attract criticism from across the country.
Slamming the railway budget, he said further, "We are not averse to the PPP model. It was conceived by us. We are not even averse to private sector (investment) in railways, but here you have specific segments like parcel freight being identified for privatisation. It is the high-earning areas that are being offered to private investors. We do not have any objection to FDI, but I wonder why it is required when you are talking about surplus investible funds from PSUs to be used for the creation of infrastructure. I take pity on them."
Chowdhury will tomorrow be the first speaker from Congress to speak on the Railway budget when discussion is taken up over the same.
Terming the rail budget "lacklustre", he said it has "disappointed" people. Rail minister Gowda was "busy belittling the achievements of UPA government" instead of outlining his ministry's plans, Chowdhury further claimed. "We have not found any roadmap for the future, any long- term perspective or any clear vision for the railways in this budget. It is abundantly clear from the rail budget that the government is talking much and executing little," he said.
Chowdhury said that despite its high-octane propagandising since coming to power, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's budget was insignificant in content. "The highfalutin propaganda of the NDA government has fizzled out. It pitched for energy conservation but there is no word on electrification. Railway budget emphasises safety and security as its focus areas, but there is not a word on any anti-collision device," he said.
Former Railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge has said that the budget is bereft of any new scheme, plan or railway line and seeks to please Gujarat, the home state of the Prime Minister. "This is a PPP (Pubic-Private Partnership) and FDI budget, not a railway budget. The budget has nothing for the poor. It's a pro-rich budget. The budget has nothing new to offer. There is no new scheme, no new plan and no new railway line.
"They have themselves admitted that it is a plan holiday. When they are not going to give anything, what is the point in talking about it," Kharge told reporters outside Parliament. Meanwhile, terming the rail budget "useless", scores of Congress workers led by the party's Delhi unit chief Arvinder Singh Lovely staged a protest outside Gowda's 1, Tyagraj Marg residence here.
Describing the rail budget as "directionless and impractical", Haryana Chief Minister and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda claimed it lacked vision. "The budget reflects that it has been conceived with political vendetta in mind as Congress-ruled states have been ignored," he said in a statement. "Also, the rail fares and freight charges were increased before its presentation in the Parliament to befool the people," he added.
Hooda said that while the central government has been saying that the Railways was in losses, the budget does not mention from where the resources would be generated. "The railway budget is like an agenda to hand over the Indian Railways to private firms," he said. Even an unhappy Mamata Banerjee criticized the Railway budget alleging the government of selling the country through FDI.