Patna: Opposition leaders in Bihar on Sunday squarely blamed the Narendra Modi government at the Centre for the train mishap at Vaishali district where the Delhi-bound Seemanchal Express jumped the tracks killing six people.
However, former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan hit back claiming that rail tracks across the country were under tremendous pressure because of "reckless increase in number of bogies" that took place while RJD supremo Lalu Prasad was the railway minister.
"This government has misplaced priorities. It is trying to introduce bullet trains, running at very high speeds with the help of sophisticated technology. On the other hand, there is a crying need for proper upkeep of ordinary trains like the Seemanchal Express," Loktantrik Janta Dal leader and former Union minister Sharad Yadav told reporters here.
Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi also held the Modi government responsible for the mishap and demanded a hefty compensation of "Rupees one crore to the next of the kin of each deceased and Rs 20 lakh to each injured passenger."
Bihar Congress working president Kaukab Qadri issued a statement seeking the resignation of Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.
The opposition leaders later appeared at a rally organized by the Congress where, upon the arrival of Rahul Gandhi, who was flanked by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav besides Chief Ministers of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel respectively, a one-minute silence was observed to mourn the tragedy.
However, talking to reporters at Sahdei Bujurg the site of the mishap that falls in his Lok Sabha constituency of Hajipur, Paswan said "If blame has to be laid upon someone, it is Lalu Prasad. His tenure as railway minister was marked by reckless increase in the number of bogies for trains without adequate augmentation of tracks."
"The Modi government has been trying to set things right but it will obviously take time," Paswan said.
Paswan had served as the Railway Minister in the United Front government in the 1990s and was a member of the Manmohan Singh cabinet, alongside Lalu Prasad, between 2004 and 2009 when he held Chemicals and Fertilizers portfolio.