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Mamata calls on UPA brass to clear pet rail proposals

Last updated on: February 23, 2011 10:24 IST

Mamata calls on UPA brass to clear pet rail proposals

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Saubhadra Chatterji in New Delhi

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee sought the urgent intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee barely days before Railway Budget 2011-12 is tabled in Parliament on February 25.

Banerjee wants the two top leaders of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to nudge the Planning Commission into including some of her most important initiatives in the Railway Budget.

Many of them relate to West Bengal, which will hold Assembly elections later this year.

According to sources in the railway ministry, the Planning Commission has so far cleared only around 12 projects of the initial list of more than 40.

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Image: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee speaks on a mobile phone.
Photographs: Reuters
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As this is likely to be her last Budget before the crucial West Bengal elections, Banerjee wants to shore up her Trinamool Congress party's electoral - and her own chief ministerial - prospects with goodies.

But the Planning Commission has reservations on the proposals related to West Bengal.

Her Railway Budget last year had several projects that were not vetted beforehand by the Planning Commission and carried the caveat "only if the Planning Commission approves".

Banerjee held a long meeting with Mukherjee on Tuesday and will meet Singh on Wednesday for consultations on her Budget preparations.

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Image: Commuters travel in a suburban train in Mumbai.
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
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Banerjee, chief of the second-largest constituent of the UPA with 19 seats, plans to introduce two more Duranto (non-stop) trains, from Howrah to Guwahati and Chennai.

She has drawn up plans to increase the frequency of three Durontos linked to Kolkata: Howrah-Mumbai, Howrah-Yashwantpur and Sealdah-New Delhi.

Banerjee also wants to announce a slew of projects for the northeast, especially Sikkim. Her party won five seats in the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly elections last year and recently bagged its first seat in the Manipur Assembly.

Her Budget may contain a survey proposal for the Sebak-Rangpo and Rangpo-Gangtok lines, apart from track construction between Murkongselek and Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh.

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Image: Duronto Express.

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She may also announce a special project to connect the seven northeastern states through the railway network.

Banerjee's Railway Budget may introduce a multimodal transport system covering around 100 km in Hyderabad and Secunderabad.

In her last Budget, she had unveiled proposals for the youth, weaker sections of society and women. This time, Banerjee wants to introduce special trains for the youth.

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Image: Mamata flagging off a Duronto.

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During preparation for the Railway Budget last year, Banerjee had a bitter argument with the finance minister at a meeting of the Cabinet committee on infrastructure.

As Banerjee surprised the panel with a host of last-minute proposals, Mukherjee -- known to be a stickler for protocol -- argued with Banerjee over procedure.

This time, Banerjee is not taking any chances.

As the West Bengal elections draw closer, she clearly wants to keep the top brass of the UPA government in the loop and secure the necessary clearances in advance.



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