Chennai: AIADMK chief and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has welcomed the Narendra Modi government’s first Railway Budget, and expressed happiness that passenger fares have not been increased.
“I am happy that the Railway Minister has spared the common people,” said Ms Jayalalithaa in a statement on Thursday. She also welcomed Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s thrust on cleanliness and women’s safety.
She also welcomed the Diamond Quadrilateral High Speed Rail Network and sought priority for routes on the network connecting to Chennai.
She however said she was disappointed that demands from Tamil Nadu have been ignored in the Railway Budget. About 22 projects are pending due to lack of funds and 10 critical new projects, most of which announced earlier, were never received financial allocations. She also complained that no new trains had been announced for Tamil Nadu, despite the fact that it was among the fast-growing states in the country.
Before the Budget, the ruling AIADMK had presented a wishlist to the Centre. But none of its demands, including a Chennai – Kanniyakumari High Speed Passenger Link, doubling of railway line between Chennai and Kanniyakumari and the integration of the Chennai Metro Rail with the existing Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) found specific mention in the Railway Budget.
“We hope that after the review is completed our demands will be addressed adequately while announcing new trains,” said Ms Jayalalithaa.
Noting that the BJP government had the challenge of addressing the flaws of the previous UPA government, she cautioned the Railway Ministry against the purchase of cheaper traction power, which she claimed was affecting the power supply situation in the states. Any step in this she said “should be in consultation with the state governments and power utilities”.
Ms Jayalalithaa had been automatically disqualified as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on September 27, 2014, when she was convicted in a disproportionate assets case by a trial court in Bengaluru. Though she had fought against the BJP during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, both parties have maintained friendly ties since.
The BJP won a majority in the Lok Sabha in the 2014 polls, but lacks the numbers in the Rajya Sabha. Recently, Finance Minister Arun Jatley too had met her, reportedly seeking her party’s support in passing crucial bills.