West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while addressing an event on the foundation day of Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) claimed that she was the Union Railway Minister when Pokhran-II was conducted in May 1998. She further said that she had arranged pipes for the tests. However, official records show that Nitish Kumar was the Railways Minister between March 1998 and August 1999.
At 2:47:27 timestamp she claimed, "Even Atal Vihari Bajpayee has done Pokhran; I know, I was the rail minister during that time. I know from where the pipes had gone. I had to source them". Banerjee also focussed on the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the South Pole of the moon during her speech.
Her claim is false.
BOOM found that in May 1998, the Railways Minister was Nitish Kumar and not Banerjee, as per official records. Nitish Kumar is the current chief minister of Bihar and had briefly held the position of the Union Minister of Railways between March 19, 1998 and August 5, 1999. In August 1999, he resigned as the Railways Minister following the Gaisal Train Disaster which killed more than 280 people. " The nation has been shocked by a very tragic and gruesome railway accident at Gaisal, one of the worst accidents in the history of Indian Railways. The accident resulted in loss of 289 precious lives including Jawans of Armed Forces. Owing moral responsibility, Head of our Railway Family, Shri Nitish Kumar resigned from the Cabinet and Hon’ble Prime Minister has reluctantly accepted his resignation," according to an archived Press Information Bureau report.
India conducted five nuclear tests under the code name Operation Shakti between May 11 and 13, 1998, at the Pokhran range in Rajasthan near the Indo-Pakistan border under the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. These tests were a follow-up to India's first successful nuclear test, Pokhran-I, which took place in 1974. The first three detonations took place simultaneously at 15:45 hours Indian Standard Time on May 11. These included a 45 kt thermonuclear device, a 15 kt fission device and a 0.2 kt sub-kiloton (i.e. less than 1 kiloton) device. The nuclear tests carried out on May 13 involved two sub-kiloton devices and were also detonated simultaneously.
"The May 1998 tests were fully successful in terms of achieving their scientific objectives and the capability to build fission and thermonuclear weapons with yields up to 200 kt," as per a PIB report.
The core team involved in the success of Pokhran-II involved Dr. R. Chidambaram, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and Chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
On August 6, 1999, Ram Naik was appointed as the Union Railways Minister. His stint ended on October 12, 1999.
Banerjee joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and became Union Railways Minister only on October 13, 1999. She served as the Railways Minister until March 15, 2001.
Overall, Banerjee served twice as the Railways Minister. Her second tenure was between 2009 and 2011, as per official records.