Trivedi on his way out
UPA lukewarm to Mamata’s nominee
Subhrangshu Gupta, Tribune News Service
Kolkata, March 17. The Trinamool Congress today intensified pressure on the Prime Minister to “sack” Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi “immediately”. The announcement is expected to be made in Parliament on Monday. The political spat over the Railway Budget today got uglier with Trinamool Chief Whip in the Lok Sabha Kalyan Banerjee calling up Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi and asking him to resign before he was sacked.
A defiant Trivedi demanded that party chief Mamata Banerjee should give the instruction in writing. “ The party’s Legislature Party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay had asserted in the Lok Sabha that the party had not asked the Railway Minister to resign. Now the Chief Whip says that the party chief wants me to resign. So, in order to avoid confusion, it is best that she send it (the instructions) in writing,” Trivedi told the media on Saturday morning.
Banerjee retorted that since he had not been told “in writing” to join the Union Cabinet either, Trivedi was being unreasonable and should step down gracefully now that the party did not want him to continue. By evening, Bandopadhyay declared in Kolkata that “nothing” would be given to Trivedi in writing.
He also debunked Trivedi’s stand that since he had presented the Railway Budget, he was duty-bound to reply to the debate.
Mamata herself had presented a Railway Budget but resigned soon thereafter, forcing the NDA to rustle up someone else to reply to the debate, he said.
Mamata Banerjee, upset over the rail fare hike announced by Trivedi, also spoke out for the first time and said here that it was time for the PM to act on her request. “Our candidate for the Railway Ministry is Mukul Roy, the current Union Minister of State for Shipping,” she said, refusing to name Trivedi. Roy filed his nomination today for the Rajya Sabha.
Roy has been a member of the Rajya Sabha for the past six years and also served briefly as Minister of state for Railways with the Prime Minister himself holding the charge of the Railway Ministry last year after Mamata Banerjee took over as Chief Minister of West Bengal. Roy had famously refused to visit the site of a railway accident, saying that as Railway Minister it was the Prime Minister’s responsibility to do so.
Congress sources in New Delhi claimed that the Prime Minister was not keen to have Roy as the Railway Minister, at least not during the Budget session of Parliament. Efforts are underway to persuade Mamata to name someone other than Roy or agree to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to steer the Railway Budget and reply to the debate.
Mamata Banerjee had written to the PM on Wednesday evening itself, urging him to drop Trivedi from the Council of Ministers and replace him with Roy. Both the PM and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee have spoken to Mamata Banerjee and are said to have conceded her right to replace her nominee in the Union Cabinet.
The Prime Minister is likely to seek Trivedi’s resignation before the Parliament meets on Monday. An announcement is expected after the motion of thanks to the President’s address is passed.
Trivedi, who has little or no option left to him, would be hoping to be expelled by the party, so that he could continue as an unattached member of the House. But in case he is not expelled, he would be subject to the whips issued by the party. There is a complete breakdown of communication between him and Mamata Banerjee and his position in the party is becoming increasingly untenable.
But if Trivedi refuses to resign, then the only recourse for the Prime Minister would be to sack him.