New Delhi/Patna: The train accident today
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
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 months
is 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.