New Delhi: As Congress and Aam Admi Party (AAP) unleash attack against the surge pricing in premium trains that will increase the price of ticket to one and half times, there are signs that the Government will back off. Sources suggest that the government is set to roll back the “flexi fare” pricing of railway tickets.
In an announcement that had stunned and shocked people across the country, the government had said that three premium trains including Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto Express will be put under surge pricing. This meant that the price of the tickets under these trains will go up substantially.
Nonetheless there are signs that a rollback is expected as the BJP government has come under widespread attack including within the BJP.
The decision is being criticized as being anti-middle class, the main support base of the BJP. Amazingly, the government didn’t raise the ticket price of high end AC 1st class.
Reports suggest that there was internal differences even within Railway Ministry. Sources say Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu took the decision despite his junior colleague Manoj Sinha’s contention that this will hit hard the middle class and will affect the BJP in assembly elections due next year in five states. After Prabhu overruled him, Sinha took up the matter with the Prime Minister’s Office and BJP President Amit Shah who was convinced by Sinha’s arguments.
Reports suggest that Sinha argued that for “nominal commercial benefits”, the Bharatiya Janata Party can’t afford the political damage as the decision had angered vast sections of the middle class and lower income groups who depend on trains for travel. Shah then sought to know from Prabhu the benefits of the controversial move. Prabhu claimed that the decision, which went into effect on Friday, would fetch the railways Rs 500 crore.
The BJP president was not happy with the move. Shah reportedly made it clear that the BJP can’t risk the resentment of the middle class for Rs 500 crore, that too at a time when assembly polls are due in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa. The flexi fare on the Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duranto Express trains, effective from September 9, was announced on Wednesday. According to the new system, the base fares of these trains will increase by 10 per cent with every 10 per cent of berths sold, subject to a ceiling limit.