Under attack, railway 'flexi fares' rollback likely
New Delhi, Sep 9: The government is likely to roll back the "flexi fare" pricing of railway tickets on three premium trains after coming under widespread attack including within the BJP, informed sources said.
The 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.
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 sources told IANS.
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.
The sources told IANS that after Shah's intervention, the railways said the flexi fare pricing was being implemented on an "experimental basis".
According to the sources, this was a face saver after the BJP virtually directed the railways to roll back the decision.
But it was agreed the rollback won't take place immediately as that would give an impression that the government had to bow to the opposition.
The Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, the CPI-M and other opposition parties were vocal in their criticism of the flexi fares and demanded its axing.
Another decision of Prabhu which had irked Manoj Sinha was the cancellation of the railway passes given to members of the Hindi Advisory Committee.
Sinha reportedly also raised this issue with Shah.
Most members of the committee are either from the BJP or Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh or from their affiliated organisations.
"The flexi fare will go but after a while," an informed source said. "The problem is that both decisions were taken with just bureaucratic input and without taking into account political considerations."