Politics over Odisha train crash deaths: Mamata Banerjee, Ashwini Vaishnaw spar during media briefing (WATCH)
Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw later downplayed the disagreement with Mamata Banerjee. Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan accompanied Vaishnaw during the press conference.
Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday found themselves at odds over the death toll in the Odisha train tragedy.
During a joint press conference in Balasore, Mamata indicated that she had heard reports suggesting the death toll could climb to 500. Vaishnaw interjected by stating, "According to the state government data, the toll stands at 238." However, Banerjee persisted in her argument, pointing out that the figure provided was from the previous day.
When questioned about Mamata's comments, Vaishnaw stressed the importance of transparency and discouraged the politicization of the situation. He asserted, "Now is not the time for political debates; our focus should be on facilitating a prompt restoration process."
Subsequently, Mamata visited the accident site on Saturday afternoon and called for a thorough investigation, describing it as the "most significant train accident of this century."
As someone who previously served as Railways minister, she expressed her anguish over the incident and underscored the necessity of a comprehensive inquiry. The two passenger trains involved in the accident are associated with stations in Bengal.
Mamata Banerjee also emphasized the need for the Railways to receive special attention, highlighting the separate budget allocated to the sector and expressing concerns about coordination gaps.
Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan joined Vaishnaw during the press conference. Vaishnaw later downplayed the disagreement with Mamata Banerjee.
Meanwhile, Abhishek Banerjee, the TMC National General Secretary, criticized Vaishnaw, accusing him of prioritizing theatrics instead of focusing on passenger safety. Taking to Twitter, he called for the resignation of the Railway Minister.
The accident in Balasore on Friday involved three trains: the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, Kolkata-Chennai Coromandel Express, and a goods train. Ongoing efforts are in place to restore the site and remove the bogies from the tracks.