Railway Minister Lalu Yadav on Friday cut rail fares for AC and mail/express trains by 2%. He kept freight rates unchanged, and announced 43 new trains.
Just like every other year Lalu was at his humourous best while presenting the interim Railway Budget in the Lok Sabha on Friday, with a fair sprinkling of quotable quotes, couplets and witty replies to interventions.
Known for his funny repartees, Lalu started his speech with a four-liner thanking everybody and stating that service to the nation was and will always be his motto.
He got an enthusiastic response from United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi to each of his quips. She sat on his left and thumped the table and smiled often.
Lalu did not even spare Shipping & Surface Transport Minister T R Baalu, who was sitting on his right and was handing over pages of his speech. When he fumbled once, Lalu looked at him with a raised eyebrow and said, "Lalu, Baalu..."
Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, himself famous for his humourous comments in the House, took a few jibes at Lalu.
When some MPs complained that Lalu was not announcing anything for their constituency, Chatterjee told them, "Even though my constituency has been delimited I am not saying anything."
When the minister announced some trains and credited the decision to Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP Basudev Acharia, Chatterjee mockingly said, "You are only looking after the chairman of the Standing Committee and there is nothing for me." Acharia is chairman of the Standing Committee attached to Railways.
After repeated interventions, a miffed Lalu said, "Dilute mat kariye, aage suniye -- don't underplay (the announcements), hear me..."
Image: Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav arrives at the parliament to unveil the 2009/10 railway budget in New Delhi. | Photograph: B Mathur/Reuters
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