NEW DELHI: The day-long drama which began with Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi proposing a hike in passenger fare in his maiden budget reached a climax with UPA ally West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee faxing a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to sack Trivedi. This was late in the evening on Wednesday.
In a late night development, the Congress accepted Banerjee’s demand to sack Trivedi, who is expected to put in his papers on Thursday, said sources.
As the UPA’s biggest ally with 19 MPs in LS and six in RS threatened to turn non-aligned, it was not just the Railway Budget 2012-13 and Trivedi’s future, but the future of the UPA which was under serious threat.
In an ultimate act of brinkmanship, Mamata Banerjee reportedly proposed another TMC MP Mukul Roy’s name as a possible replacement for Trivedi. Incidentally, it was after the PM had refused to appoint Roy as Railway Minister that Mamata’s had originally propped up Trivedi. It was, therefore, not just a snub to Trivedi, but also to the PM.
However, according to sources, “She has only offered to name a replacement” of Trivedi. The development led to a late night emergency meeting of the Congress core group in the PM’s residence. This was hurriedly called to decide the next course of action, particularly what was to be done in Parliament on Thursday.
Hours before this, Manmohan Singh said on the sidelines of a defence investiture ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan, “I have not received any resignation… Of course, the government is stable. I’ve already said it yesterday that we have all the numbers.” But knowing Mamata, the Congress leadership surely saw this coming. In fact, by late Tuesday afternoon it had become more or less apparent that Trivedi’s days in the Rail Bhavan were numbered. His defiant stance notwithstanding.
Speaking to Express earlier, Trivedi had said: “I will quit if that’s what my leader wants. After all, I’m here as the Railway Minister because of her. But, this (the Budget) is about economics and not politics. I’ve followed the best management practices and took a conscious decision’’ to hike the fare. “Let, the people judge me.” Brave words no doubt, but Trivedi’s budget opened a new fault-line between the Trinamool and the UPA government, with his party chief reading the riot act in Nandigram, West Bengal.
In Delhi, outside Parliament, right after the presentation of the Budget, TMC party MPs, particularly Derek O’Brien and Sudip Bandyopadhyay, openly criticised their party colleague, Trivedi, for daring to hike rail fare against the expressed wishes of their party leader. Bandyopadhyay said, “We feel that this an anti-people act. If necessary, we will move cut motion on the issue.’’
Trivedi’s party colleague and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien tweeted: “The Railway budget…what was all that about increasing fare across board? Upper class…may be ok…but all? Sorry, cannot agree.”