Sporting a cream shirt and dark trouser Suresh Prabhu looked confident, as someone who means business. As he presented his maiden Railway Budget, the minister cracked jokes, and wondered how his long-term vision for the cash-strapped railways will be implemented.
"Hey Prabhu, yeh kaise hoga?" he quipped as the members burst into laughter. But in the end, he came across as a refined communicator who navigated through the Budget with élan. A professional chartered accountant by training, Prabhu was at ease with the financial part of the Budget which he presented before the House in his hour-long speech.
He was quite fast as he read out the proposals, and the members across the party lines heard him with rapt attention. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his own party members to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, everyone listened to each and every word that Prabhu uttered. There was not much disturbance from members who usually make several demands when the railway Budget is presented every year.
However, the lawmakers protested with a loud "No, No" in unison when the minister suggested that the parliamentarians contribute from their MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) funds to improve passenger amenities at the railway stations.
Unlike other ministers in the past who have been heard quoting from the poets, Prabhu did not sound poetic as such.
However, to make a point, he referred to Shubhada Gogate's Marathi novel 'Khandalyachya Ghatasaathi', which is a fictional account of the construction of India's first railway line across the Sahyadri range.
Prabhu also referred to Mahatma Gandhi conducting his travels across the country in 'Third Class' of trains, which has been done away with. At one point, Prabhu 61, referred to him as a senior citizen while highlighting a proposal to give preference to the elderly in booking of berths in trains.
The minister concluded his speech by quoting Swami Vivekananda on making ideas work.
Besides the Lok Sabha, the visitors' gallery and the media gallery were almost full in anticipation of the first full-fledged rail Budget of the NDA government. However, Prabhu failed to impress his critics who dubbed the proposals as devoid of substance. "He came across as a refined communicator through his personal references and the way he cracked jokes. He was comfortable with the financial part due to his chartered accountant background," Congress spokesperson Rajiv Gowda, a management expert, told Mail Today. "However, the trained chartered accountant has derailed the Budget," Gowda added, accusing Prabhu of selling dreams without a concrete roadmap.
As the railway minister wrapped up his Budget proposals, disappointment showed on the faces of lawmakers as no announcement of new trains came.
"The speech was a great disappointment. The railway is about mobility of the common man and expectations of the poor," is how another Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala reacted to Prabhu's maiden speech.
FULL COVERAGE:Union Budget 2015