Mamata drives party agenda on railway tracks

Kolkata, June 14: The new Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has been accused of neglecting the Ministry at the cost of Bengal politics. Reportedly, the Minister is preparing the Rail Budget without taking any advice from her Ministers of State – KH Muniyappa and E Ahmed – and hasn’t allotted any work to them.

Muniyappa who was a MoS under the former railway minister Lalu Prasad refused to specify the work that has been allotted to him.

“We have to work together, there is no problem,” says Muniyappa.

He may be putting a brave front but there are clear signs of friction with another junior rail minister E Ahmed.

Mamata is reportedly upset that she has to deal with Ahmed because Ahmed’s party – the Indian Union Muslim League – which fielded its candidates against Trinamool Congress in West Bengal including her own seat in South Kolkata.

Mamata feels it was done after a tacit understanding with the ruling Left in Bengal. However, when Ahmed was contacted he refused to comment.

But it is not just distribution of work in her Ministry that has sparked off a controversy, the Trinamool leader is already being accused of running the Railway Ministry not for India but for her home state West Bengal.

Mamata has decided that Railways will send a medical team, comprising of doctors from railway hospitals, to cyclone-ravaged areas of West Bengal. A number of medical camps would be set up by the Railways in the affected areas.

She has also sent a must-do list to the Prime Minister which includes –

Overhaul of the Railway Board and removal of its chairman

Extension for West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, and

Transfer of all central funds meant for West Bengal directly to district collectors.

The Railway Minister also plans to launch her party’s own news channel and she has decided to scrap her predecessor Lalu Yadav’s plan of increased free rail travel for all previous rail ministers. Clearly, Mamata is firmly eyeing the 2011 Bengal assembly elections.