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PMO not preparing Railway Budget: Lalu

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, FEB. 25. The Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, today dismissed as "mischievous" reports that the PMO was preparing his Ministry's budget.

``It is not true. It is mischievous. A certain section of the media is spreading such a thing. It is wrong to say that the PMO is preparing the railway budget,'' Mr. Prasad told newspersons following the customary photo session on the eve of the Railway Budget presentation.

The Minister, who returned here after a month-long electioneering for the Assembly elections in Bihar, said: ``The PMO and Railway Ministry are not two separate things. The Government is one.''

Replying to the charge made by the Bharatiya Janata Party that the budget 2005-06 was going to be the Railway Board's budget and not that of the Railway Minister, Mr. Prasad said both were an integral part. He feigned ignorance about reports that the PMO pressured the Railway Ministry to reduce cross subsidies on passenger fares and freight and counselled newspersons to ``better check with the PMO'' in the matter.

The Railway Minister, however, declined to drop any hints on the budgetary provisions saying, ``If I am going to disclose the budget before you, then what would be the sanctity of Parliament? You will come to know everything tomorrow.''

To a specific question as to who has been given attention in the Railway Budget, Mr. Prasad's reply was short and curt: ``every Indian citizen.''

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