The train accident on Monday gave fodder to non-UPA parties to target Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee who was accused of being busy with West Bengal politics at the cost of her ministry but the government defended her.
BJP,LJP,RJD and CPI(M) said the collision betweeen Sealdah-bound Uttarbanga Express and Uttaranchal-bound Vananchal Express in Bhirbhum district of West Bengal was the result of a lapse for which they held Banerjee answerable.
“The people are raising serious doubts about her (Banerjee’s) capability and her willingness and her sincerity whether she can provide safety in the railways,” BJP spokesman Tarun Vijay said in New Delhi while noting that this was the second major train mishap in one month.
“You have a Minister whose attention is elsewhere and the country is paying the price for that,” CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said.
Contending that “this is something which cannot be accepted in the collective responsibility of the Cabinet,” he said,”The Prime Minister has to take a call. It is high time he takes a call because in the past one year,the highest number of railway accidents have taken place.”
LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan said in Patna that the Railway Minister will have to “make a choice as to whether she wants to be Railway Minister or do West Bengal politics. Both cannot go together. The loss of so many lives in every three monthsis not tolerable.”
Demanding a judicial probe into the train mishap,the former Railway Minister said,”It is a serious lapse on the part of the Railways…There were no Naxal activities and no fog even then such a major accident occurred.”
Banerjee’s predecessor and RJD chief Lalu Prasad said,”This is a sad incident and a serious lapse.”
Apparently targeting Banerjee,he said,”I don’t understand why such accidents are taking place.”
He,however,evaded a direct reply when asked about allegations that Banerjee was concentrating on West Bengal politics and in turn ignoring her department.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee,meanwhile,sought to dismiss suggestions that Banerjee’s absence from her Ministry was the reason for recurrence of train accidents.
“Accidents are accidents. Nobody can predict,that’s why it is an accident. I don’t think so,” he told reporters when asked whether the country needs “a full-time” Railway Minister as there was another accident in less than two months.
Banerjee,on her part,raised suspicion over the accident and suggested that someone was “behind this” mishap.
“I am suspicious about the cause of the accident… We have some doubt in our mind. Whatever happened is not casual thing,” Banerjee told reporters.
“We will take all strong step against those who are behind this,” she said in Kolkata.
Terming as “highly responsible” Banerjee’s suggestion that the mishap could be an act of sabotage,Yechury said the accident was “clearly a case of negligence. There has been no act of sabotage,nothing has been removed.”
Replying to questions,he said “it is for the Prime Minister to take whatever action he deems fit and for the people to judge”.
Asked whether the CPI(M) would demand Banerjee’s resignation,he said it would be “meaningless because in this government,the levels of political morality is so low that it does not matter”.
He said “People will have to see and call spade a spade. They have to see how things have been allowed to degenerate because of this high level of neglect.”
In a statement,the CPI(M) Politburo said the number of rail accidents has been “unprecedented in the last one year”.
It said “maintenance of equipment and safety measures are being neglected in the railways.”
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar,meanwhile,targeted Lalu Prasad,alleging that development of passenger safety mechanisms had been ignored before Banerjee took over.
“During his five-year tenure as Railway Minister,Prasad virtually ignored the safety of railways which will definitely cast shadow over his successors at the Rail Bhavan,” he said in Patna.
Recalling his tenure as Railway Minister,Kumar said it had been decided to adopt anti-collision devices which were first introduced in the Konkan railways.
“It is unfortunate that no safety measures were taken after Prasad took over the charge of Rail Bhavan,” the Bihar Chief Minister said.