If a prime minister could be chosen on the basis of announcing new trains, Lalu Prasad would be there already. An unprecedented number of new trains -- 43 in all -- with a majority of them touching one or more cities in Bihar, were announced by him as part of the 2009-10 Interim Railway Budget.
Bihar and Jharkhand, two states where Lalu Prasad has a political presence, have benefited by more than 17 out of the 43 new trains going to these two states. These include three new Garib Raths and one Jan Shatabdi Express.
The Ajmer-Delhi-Bhagalpur Garib Rath will run twice a week, while the Jammu Tawi-Darbhanga Garib Rath and Sitamarhi-Delhi Garib Rath via Patna will both run weekly.
Two new weekly Rajdhani trains will touch two Bihar cities -- the New Delhi-Guwahati Rajdhani Express via Bhagalpur and the New Delhi-Guwahati Rajdhani Express via Muzaffarpur.
Other trains running through Bihar and Jharkhand are the tri-weekly Ranchi-Jaynagar Express, three weekly trains: Chhatrapati Sahu terminal (Kolhapur)-Dhanbad Link Service via Parasnath, Saharsa-Delhi Express via Patna and the Howrah-Delhi Link Service via Azimganj-Bhagalpur.
Trains that will run daily are the Jamalpur-Gaya Passenger, Sitamarhi-Patna Link Service, Hajipur-Bagaha Link Service and the Jhajhar-Patna Service.
Five trains out of the 14 that are to be linked by extensions fall in Bihar. Besides, five of the 14 trains for which the frequency is proposed to be increased have a connection with Bihar and Jharkhand. Plans are also afoot to have a bullet train -- the Shinkansen by which Lalu Prasad was so impressed during a recent visit to Japan -- run between Patna and Delhi.
Bhagalpur in Bihar is to have a new railway division.
The cherry on the sundae is the unveiling of diesel and electric locomotive factories at Marhoura and Madhepura, both part of Lalu Prasad's parliamentary constituency.
The new weekly trains announced for the rest of the country include the Bilaspur-Tirunelveli via Thiruvananthapuram Express, the Bhopal-Lucknow Junction Garib Rath Express, the Durg-Jaipur Express, the Dibrugarh Town-Chandigarh Express, the Gandhidham-Kolkata Superfast and the Mumbai-Jodhpur Express.
New trains that will link the rest of India barring Bihar and Jharkhand, twice a week, are: Barauni-Delhi Jan Sadharan Superfast, Mumbai-Bikaner Superfast, Jaynagar-Ajmer Link Service, Mumbai-Tirunelveli Superfast via Thiruvananthapuram, Machhalipatnam-Mumbai Superfast and Jhansi-Chhindwara Superfast.
New trains running thrice a week are Mumbai-Karwar Superfast and Nizamudddin-Bangalore via Kacheguda Rajdhani Express. Those running five days a week are Gwalior-Bhopal Intercity Express via Guna and the Howrah-Haridwar Superfast.
The railway minister has announced a whole clutch of new trains that will ply daily. These are the Secunderabad-Manuguru Superfast, the Sengottai-Erode Passenger, the Mumbai-Varanasi Superfast, the Mysore-Yesvantpur Express, the Korapur-Rourkela Express via Rayagada, the Agra-Ajmer Superfast, the Tiruchirapalli-Madurai Express, the Agra-Lucknow Junction Shatabdi Express, the Coimbatore-Tuticorin Link Service, the Varanasi-Jammu Tawi Superfast, the Gorakhpur-Mumbai Superfast, the New Delhi-Palwal and the Veraval-Mumbai Link Service.
In introducing the largest number of new trains in recent times, Lalu Prasad reminded reporters that the maximum number of new trains his predecessor Nitish Kumar had announced were 10.
Lalu Prasad has set a political, pan-India target for himself. The forthcoming general elections will decide if his ambitions can be realised.