NEW DELHI / KOLKATA: In what seems to be a calculated move to defame and divide the Trinamool Congress and its leader Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress leadership have decided to delay the sacking of defiant Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi from the Union Cabinet. Even after three days of Mamata asking the Prime Minister to replace Trivedi with Mukul Roy as the new railway minister, the prime minister is in no hurry to oblige his most powerful ally. It is the prime minister’s prerogative to choose his Cabinet, but the West Bengal chief minister publicly announced the name of the new railway minister from Kolkata. But Congress leaders were hardly unnerved by Mamata’s aggressive posturing. According to PMO sources, the Congress was letting both the media and opinion makers spew venom on Mamata’s move to get rid of a pro-reform railway Minister and provoke other disgruntled elements in the TMC to revolt against an autocratic Chief Minister.
The objective was to buy time so that various pressures could be applied on Mamta to review her decision. It is the first time that the prime minister of a coalition government has declined to act on the advice of the leader of a coalition partner. While Manmohan was still vacillating, Trivedi was indulging in a media blitz to market himself as one of the most progressive railway ministers and acquire the image of a martyr. The prime minister wants Trivedi to ensure the approval of the railway budget as it is because it was made with the active participation of adviser to the prime minister Sam Pitroda and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Adhir Chaudhury, a Congress MP from North Bengal known to be close to Pranab Mukherjee, indignantly said, “Who brought Sam Pitroda to Rail Bhawan? It was Mamata Banerjee.
Who took Pitroda to West Bengal to advise the TMC on rejuvenating the state economy? Mamata. Then how is Pitroda advising Trivedi on the railway budget a Congress gameplan to destabilise TMC?” Pitroda has been a house guest of Dinesh Trivedi for the past three months. Delhi sources confide that Pitroda and Ahluwalia are the real authors of the railway budget and Trivedi acted as a rubber stamp. The prime minister rarely concerns himself with the railway budget, which always decided between the railway minister and finance minister. Manmohan digging his heels on Mamata’s request to sack Trivedi has acquired an uncharacteristic political colour.
Meanwhile, a close Trivedi aide is attempting damage control asking why the minister’s “refusal to play ball with Mamata is not perceived as a protest against public humiliation?” The real drama will unfold in the coming week, when the rail budget goes up for debate.
If the government does not, on its own, decide to roll back the fare hike, the TMC would most certainly move a cut motion to vote the proposal out.