NEW DELHI: S S Palanimanickam is no Dinesh Trivedi. The Minister of State for Finance, however, absented himself from the all-important event of his ministry, the Budget presentation, on Friday because he was abiding by a ‘diktat’ issued by the DMK leadership.
That the allies are putting the government further in deep waters is proved by the fact that the minister was spotted near a waterfall in the tourist destination of Courtalam, enjoying a quiet swim while the Union Budget was being unveiled in Delhi—a fact vehemently denied by his party (Palanimanickam being ‘out of reach’).
DMK sources say Palanimanickam was asked by the party leadership to be present at Sankarankoil in Tamil Nadu and not in Parliament. Unlike Trivedi, who raised a banner of revolt against the wishes of his party boss Mamata Banerjee and hiked passenger rail fares, Palanimanickam did not dare cross the party line; he toed the line. He missed out on the opportunity of being seen on national TV sitting next to the finance minister on D-day, for the first time since 2004.
But he had a humbler job to do, having been assigned byelection duty in Sankarankoil.
Whatever other DMK MPs may have said on Friday to cover up the embarrassment of Palanimanickam’s absence has caused the government, already caught in a bitter game of brinkmanship with the TMC.
“Yes, he was asked by our party leader (M.Karunanidhi) and our organisation secretary (M K Alagiri) to attend to byelection duty. He’s one of the district presidents in Sankarankoil and it is no ordinary byelection we are fighting there—33 ministers of the ruling AIADMK are campaigning,’’ DMK spokesperson TKS Elangovan told The Sunday Standard.
But was Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee aware that Palanimanickam will not be spared for the presentation of the Budget? On this, the DMK did not want to commit itself either way.
Instead, Elangovan says, “In the House, a political party is represented by the leader of parliamentary party, which is T R Baalu, he was present and I’m the chief whip, and I was present, which means we were not boycotting the Budget.’’