"My budget proposals are for the Railways and the country... not for the party"
A day after proposing a fare hike in the rail budget, which has threatened his job, a defiant Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi said on Thursday he would repeat the same if asked to present the budget again.
Mr. Trivedi, whose sacking has been demanded by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, told journalists in New Delhi that he had neither been contacted by her nor had he spoken to her yet.
Mr. Trivedi's rail budget proposals have invited the wrath of Ms. Banerjee, who has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sack him.
When it was pointed out that the fare hike proposals were contrary to his party's policy, he said: “I have done it for the Railways and the country... not for party. If I have to please my party, then I am not doing my work.”
On the possibility of a fare hike rollback, Mr. Trivedi said: “The budget is in Parliament and I will be guided by Parliament. Parliament will be guided by the wisdom of people.”
Referring to the Lokpal, he said: “Why Lokpal has come? Because of the wisdom of the people. If Parliament tells me to cut down, then I will say okay I am cutting down on safety… But then do not blame me if something happens on safety.”
Invoking Rabindranath Tagore, Mr. Trivedi said he was inspired by the great poet one of whose poems reads: “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high. It is all symbolic.”
In an apparent dig at Ms. Banerjee without naming her, Mr. Trivedi said: “What is the point of having Tagore's music at traffic junctions and not following him?”
Ms. Banerjee, after becoming Chief Minister, has ensured playing of Tagore's songs at key traffic intersections in Kolkata.
“I want to carry myself with dignity. I follow the teachings of Tagore. That is why I invoke Tagore. My mind is without fear and head is held high,” he said.
“I am receiving congratulatory messages from people from every walk of life across the country for the rail budget,” Mr. Trivedi claimed.
Change after Union budget
After she spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the day, Ms. Banerjee is believed to have been assured that her demand for getting rid of Mr. Trivedi and replacing him with Mukul Roy would be considered only after the Union budget was presented in Parliament on Friday.
Highly-placed TMC sources said Dr. Singh assured Mamata that action against Mr. Trivedi would await the budget presentation, thereby indicating that he could lose the job over the weekend.
“Rollback our priority”
Meanwhile, Trinamool leader Sudip Bandopadhyay told journalists in New Delhi that the party's priority was “complete rollback of the hike. How the government does it, only they have to decide. They can do it after the discussion on the rail budget or before that. It is only the government which will have to decide.”
On the replacement of Mr. Trivedi by Mukul Roy, Mr. Bandopadhyay said: “It is a closed chapter,” indicating that the issue had been clinched.
Asked whether they would wait till the debate on the rail budget was over and a rollback announced, he said: “I only hope that the rollback will be announced by a new [Railway] Minister... Wait for the discussion [on rail budget] to take place.”
Noting that the debate on the rail budget was slated for today [Thursday], Mr. Bandopadhyay said: “Now it will only be next week. It has been deferred. This shows the government is also taking its time.”
He said the Congress had “also agreed to the principle that in a coalition, the parties send names of those who are to be inducted into the Council of Ministers or change the names.”
Mr. Bandopadhyay was replying to questions after a meeting of party MPs. The meeting came after he held consultations with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the issue in the Lok Sabha on the sidelines of the debate on the President's address.
The Trinamool leader went to Mr. Mukherjee's seat apparently to discuss the Trivedi issue. The Minister was seen telling him something and Mr. Bandopadhyay grabbed a notepad and took down the points.
Soon thereafter, Mr. Bandopadhyay and other party members, including Mr. Roy, left the House.
Mr. Mukherjee also left soon.