New Delhi: The fate of Union Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi appeared to have been sealed on Thursday, with reports saying that the Congress and Mamata Banerjee have reached an understanding that he be replaced. However, when would that happen, has become a matter of speculation. While some reports said the government has bought time till after Union Budget, others claimed Trivedi will stay till the end of ongoing Budget Session.
Trinamool Congress has been gunning for Trivedi’s head ever since he announced hike in passenger fares in the Rail Budget 2012-13 presented on Wednesday.
But the party today appeared to be doing flip-flop on its demand. The TMC first said in the morning that the Railway Minister has been asked to put in his papers, but later retracted and said no such instructions had been given to him.
The government on its part appeared to have accepted Mamata’s demand of replacing Trivedi with TMC MP and Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy, but managed to defer resolution of the crisis till after Friday`s Budget. The government wants Trivedi to continue till at least the end of the Budget Session when the Railway Minister replies to the Railway Budgetary Demands for Grants.
Some reports even claimed that the Congress has categorically told Mamata that Trivedi would not be replaced until the end of the Budget Session as it would send a wrong signal.
Mamata had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last night seeking Trivedi’s immediate removal.
When PM Singh was asked today about the possibility of replacing Trivedi, he said, “If anything like this develops, we will consider it."
The Trinamool Congress today clarified that a decision on Trivedi`s resignation will be taken only in consultation between PM Singh and party chief Mamata Banerjee.
The Trinamool also sought to assure an already beleaguered Congress-led government that it will not destabilise it.
Sources said there are two options before the government. Firstly, it could agree to either a total or a partial rollback of hike in fares, leading to a truce between the TMC and the UPA government.
Alternatively, the government could stick to the fare hikes, provoking a belligerent Mamata to move a cut motion in the Budget Session, leading to the Sense of the House being recorded and a vote taken. This will effectively mean a parting of ways between the UPA and the Trinamool.
With there being every chance of a Trinamool pullout, the Congress has already started wooing new allies, most importantly the Samajwadi Party which has 22 MPs. The Trinamool has 19 MPs in the current Lok Sabha.
‘UPA govt safe’
Amid a concerted onslaught by the Opposition in Parliament today, Trinamool parliamentary group leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said: "I categorically want to say that the government of UPA-II is properly settled and it will complete its term."
He added in the Lok Sabha that the Trinamool had not asked Trivedi to resign for presenting a Budget that sought to increase rail fares for the first time in a decade.
A defensive government, however, got more breathing space after another critical ally, the DMK, also said that it too remained with the Manmohan Singh government. "We are part of UPA-II and will remain with UPA-II," DMK MP TR Baalu said.
The Congress put up a brave face after coming under attack in Parliament over the latest political storm, saying differences within a coalition were but natural.
"These things have happened in the past too," Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters. "Each (coalition partner) has different political compulsions.
"It is unfortunate but the leadership is looking at it," she added.
Congress MP Raashid Alvi also stressed that it was an internal affair of the government and it could not be discussed outside.
During the Parliament Session today, Trivedi did not speak in the Lok Sabha. But he smiled when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the House that he (Trivedi) had not resigned.
Mukherjee admitted that a letter had been received from Mamata demanding the scrapping of the rail fare hikes.
Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha that the Railway Budget was now the property of the House, which would vote on the proposals.
He also took responsibility for preparation of the Railway Budget, saying only the Finance Minister`s approval was needed and not that of either the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.
Later, speaking outside the House, the mild-mannered Trivedi reiterated that he had not been asked to resign by the Prime Minister or his party chief but he would go if he was asked to.
He, however, gently contradicted Mamata’s claim that the party was not aware of his move to raise rail fares. And in remarks bound to displease her, he said he was duty-bound to defend the Budget.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj today asked some pointed questions in Lok Sabha: "Is Dinesh Trivedi`s Rail Budget dead or alive?"
At a press conference, BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu lambasted the Congress-led government, saying it was falling apart, brick by brick, due to distrust with its key allies. "There is no governance. The foundations of this government are being shaken, brick by brick," he said.
Ironically, support for Mamata’s demand came from her biggest foe, the Left.
Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the Rail Budget sought to impose a financial burden on the common man and so was not acceptable to his party.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) too came out with a detailed point-by-point criticism of the Budget.
With agencies` inputs