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Updated: March 16, 2012 04:01 IST

UPA weighs options to placate sulking Mamata

Smita Gupta
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WILL HE OR WON'T HE? Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi at the Rail Bhavan after presenting the Rail Budget. Photo: Kamal Narang
WILL HE OR WON'T HE? Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi at the Rail Bhavan after presenting the Rail Budget. Photo: Kamal Narang

Seeks legal opinion on Mamata's demand for rollback

A day after a furious Mamata Banerjee asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sack Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi and reverse the increase in passenger fares proposed in the Railway budget, the United Progressive Alliance government on Thursday continued to keep everyone guessing, even as the issue rocked Parliament.

As the government, at the end of its tether, weighed its options, it asked a key Minister and a senior party functionary to meet a senior law officer on Thursday to seek his opinion whether Ms. Banerjee's demand for a rollback of the fare increase amounted to a breach of privilege of Parliament. The law officer answered in the affirmative, saying that by making such a demand, the West Bengal Chief Minister was disabling and pre-empting Parliament from discussing these proposals.

The government has undertaken the consultations ahead of a meeting of the Congress Core Group scheduled for Friday evening — after the Union budget is presented — when a final decision on when to drop Mr. Trivedi from the Cabinet and what stand to take on the fare increase issue is likely to be taken, informed sources said.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists that the government would consider replacing Mr. Trivedi, if the situation demanded it, while Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee clarified in the Lok Sabha that Ms. Banerjee's communication to the government, asking that Mr. Trivedi be sacked, was under “active consideration.” However, Mr. Trivedi remained, for the moment, as Railway Minister.

If Mr. Trivedi is dropped after Friday's meeting, Ms. Banerjee's choice, Mukul Roy, now Minister of State for Shipping, could be given the Railway portfolio through an executive order. It is only if he is elevated to the Cabinet that a swearing-in ceremony will be required. Traditionally, new Ministers are not sworn in when Parliament is in session.

Answering a question from Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, Mr. Mukherjee clarified in the Lok Sabha that the Railway budget required neither the Prime Minister's approval nor the Cabinet's, but only the Finance Minister's. Furthermore, as the budget was presented, it was now the property of the House.

While this was read in political circles as indicative of the fact that Mr. Mukherjee might reply to the budget debate, in the absence of a Railway Minister, sources in the Congress said that would happen only if the party leadership decided that it wanted to end its ties with the Trinamool.

As things stand, the Congress is looking for new friends. On Thursday, in the midst of its current parliamentary crisis, the party sent Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and senior party leader Motilal Vora, once Uttar Pradesh Governor, to Lucknow to represent it at the swearing-in of Akhilesh Yadav as Chief Minister. The two carried a personal letter from Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh, expressing her regret at not being able to attend the ceremony, and sending her best wishes to Mr. Akhilesh Yadav.

With the Trinamool's support tenuous, the Congress wishes to keep all channels of communication to the 22-MP strong Samajwadi Party open. Indeed, a senior leader stressed that Mr. Mulayam Singh would be in the capital on Friday to be present in the House during the presentation of the Union budget and that “things can thereafter be taken forward.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trivedi continued to enjoy his moment in the sun, holding court in Central Hall. He later told journalists that he would quit whenever his “leader” Mamata Banerjee or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked him to do so. “Nobody has sought my resignation. It is my duty to get the Railway budget passed, and this is my prime duty.”

The days to come will demonstrate how far the Congress is willing to push the Trinamool — if it gets tough, it could send a negative message to other allies; if it does not, the government will remain paralysed.

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The middle class people of India as well as a good majority of tourists like to travel by train but often shy away from it for the unhygienic condition prevailing therein, the dramas enacted at booking offices, the frugality of the common meals, the lack of safety and the frequency of lateness. Tourists are shocked to see ppeople lying on the floor, awaiting the arrival of the train. What if some rich people donate some benches so that people would not be treated like animals.

from:  Raj
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 22:53 IST

Mamata has as much right to influence Central government decisions as Sonia Gandhi has since both lead political parties which are members of the ruling coalition. Is it anybody's case that Sonia Gandhi is not influencing the government? She definitely is, but does it silently as everyone knows while Mamata does it openly. That is the only difference.

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 20:15 IST

I think she has a habit of objecting to everything, just to impress the aam aadmi and the vote bank. It is time this unduly angry lady is shown her place and for the Government to ensure that genuine policy decisions are more important than surviving by giving up to the undue demands of an unrealistic coalition partner.

from:  N Subramanian
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 16:48 IST

It is very difficult to understand why Didi has taken confronting
attitude with the center for several issues. Being an ally, TMC party
should take a positive view. Even within the party difference of
opinion among the members may prevail but openly ventilating
anger/opposing idea is not desirable. We all know in each family there
may be differences of opinion among the children and family members,
but it should not go out. If it goes out then become 'Tamasha' for
others. During 70s' people of West Bengal had seen worst days and
aftermath everybody knows. People of West Bengal want development.
Marginal increase in fare is not at all an issue even in the state of
West Bengal as purchasing power has gone up several times in last
decade. Theory of economics says, "little increase in fare works like
Tonic Effect in the economy", a welcome step. Sri Trivedi's rail
budget is praiseworthy. I do agree with him country is first than the

from:  Dr Shankar Chatterjee
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 16:07 IST

Mr. Dinesh has been an efficient politician(Not to mention the vohra
Report). This is after 9 years when back in 2003 in the railway budget
freight charges were increased under Nitish Kumar.If today I have to pay
₹90/- instead of ₹80/- for travelling from Jaipur to Agra, but at the
cost of increased safety, more facilities and better seating
availability in train then I would worth be giving it.

from:  Y.P.Baghel
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 15:54 IST

How sad ! Congress has not learnt its lessons. Unpredictable allies are
festering wounds in the body politik. Some can be cured. Others cannot
be. Surgical removal is needed for these. Trinamool falls in the
latter category. Compulsions of coalition politics apart, the interests
of the nation should be of paramount importance in the minds of the
Central Leadership. Hope, people who matter will make wise decisions.

from:  Thomas Vech
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 12:51 IST

Visionary minister, having grit determination for his assignment, denied to carry obnoxious & trivial pressure of cheap politics. It will be proper for peoples of West Bengal and Trinamool Congress to elevate him as Chief Minister of West Bengal.

from:  Pankaj
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 12:41 IST

If Mr. Dinesh Trivedi, Railway Minister did not take his party leader into confidence over the fare hike in his proposed Railway budget, it is objectionable.
What kept him from doing so? Was it a mistake, or a game plan?

Because that is the root of the current problem. As far as the Railway Budget is concerned, every right thinking Indian will agree that one cannot run an enterprise on subsidies, external budgetary support, bad pricing of the services it offers and gross mismanagement as well as a decaying organisational structure.Innovative managerial action and a clear break from it's wasted past is a must for the Indian Railways. Otherwise it will sink in a more ugly manner than the Titanic.

from:  Sanay Tirdiya
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 12:18 IST

I am surprised that the National parties are not able to understand and work the dynamics of regional parties even after 50 years. Unless we have stronger National parties we would be staring down the barrel in the years to come. The current UPA's paralyzed government has pulled back overall development by few years atleast. Since the Parliament is more about the nation and less about the states, there has to be better representation of National parties. All coalition is just horse trading. I am sure many of the respected readers would disagree with me. Being a southerner i know how charming it is to be associated with a regional party. But it is time to think big and think about the Nation.

from:  Sudharsan
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 12:13 IST

Fare hike after a decade is still not acceptable. I don't see any other
parties protesting a roll-back of fares. Its absolutely justifiable and Govt. should diplomatically resolve the issue instead of placating
Mamata. Dinesh Trivedi has done a decent job. Inspite of being the 2nd
largest railway network in the world, we are far from behind some best
railway networks. Reformation is the need of the hour and am sick of this procrastinating Govt..

from:  Venkatesh
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 11:21 IST

The curse of coalition politics. Chief Minister demands the PM to sack a cabinet minster and the PM tries to placate the CM. What a pity. The PM has lost his credibility as a leader by not admonishing the CM who is a lower level functionary in the pecking order. Ms. Bannerjee has done the nation a service. She has brought out in the open the greed of Congress party to hold on to power at the cost of self respect.
The nation expected a stong response from the PM.
IF he is not warming the seat for Rahul, he should resign along with his entire cabinet.

from:  man sandilya
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 11:04 IST

The marginal hike in passenger fares was very much needed. There are
several factors that need to included. Trains are increased in number
and frequency. There is still shortage of staff due to unfilled
vacancies. Even if recruitment is done, Railways need to generate more
revenue. How long can the Railways depend primarily on freight, with
the recent policies making even the railway freight suffer at the
hands of Private road transport operators. The marginal hike is still
does not suffice in increasing the overall revenue considerably to an
extent which the railways can boast of surplus. The hike should be
seen as balm for the current financial position of railways.
The operating ratio is set drop to around 84% from a good 95%. Just
hiking passengers fares is not enough. It needs to generate funds from
effective PPP and better management of its properties.

from:  Syed Zohaibullah
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 10:43 IST

The increase in fair was necessary considering that the fares were
last increased 9 years ago. It has become habitual of Mamata Banerjee
to create a ruckus on every decision taken by the center. The UPA
should oust Trinamool and consider taking someone else's support.
However, it is also high time that a change in the center is needed.
The UPA has showed its incompetence enough. By the way, it is only Mamata who is creating a scene. No issue has been raised by the public who is going to be affected by the rise. Mamata doesn't even have to travel by train.

from:  varun saravagi
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 10:27 IST

Q: Why is Mamata angry with Dinesh Trivedi?
A: Because Dinesh Trivedi punctured her pride, by telling the nation in an unambiguous manner, that Mamata in her stint as the Union Railway Minister was also responsible in sending the Indian Railways to ICU. If any one thinks that she is fighting the cause for aam aadmi, by opposing the fare hike, they are cut off from the reality. This is the first hike in fares after 8 years when the aam aadmi has seen price hikes in all essential commodities ranging from curry leaves to milk and fish and services from bus fares to air fares.Can Mamata point out
any item that has not been impacted by price rise, at least during her tenure as CM of WB in the last 10 months? Moreover, is ther any large scale murmur from her own constituency of voters over the fare hikes? If there is a national survey on this issue, majority of the people will not object to the fare hikes. Didi should realise that its time she stopped her tantrums !

from:  Shekar
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 10:21 IST

I simply want to ask, when will things change? When it is obviously clear as to how justifiable the fare hike is, why do leaders (or the so called ) and that too of national stature, have to play games, at the expense of innocent millions, more so at the expense of the of the not so privilege people's inablility to rationalise. Mamata is playing puppets with her party members and they seem to accept it without a tinge of individual credibility. Makes one wonder what really qualifies them as leaders.

from:  Padma Priya
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 10:20 IST

Railway is the cheapest means of transport in India. But UPA-2 regime doesn't thinks the status of people. Manmohan singh wouldn't bother about people who has acted as the prime minister in both UPA regimes. In last UPA regime Lalu prasad yadav run the railway portfolio in profit. But past and present railway ministers of UPA-2 regime are inefficient to run the railway in profit. Mamata and Trivedi didn't take any actions on proposals announced in earlier railway budgets. But Trivedi has increased the railway fare, carriage and freight fare.Already the food inflation is threatening the country, the railway fair hike also spread fear among the people.

from:  Akash.S.D
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 09:46 IST

It's sad to see that someone holding post of Chief Minister says "no one is above party". Not even country? It's simple to understand that Rail budget including fair hike is justifiable.

from:  Shrihari Kulkarni
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 09:10 IST

This is very funny. On Ms. Banerjee's request, Mr. Trivedi was appointed as the Railway Minister. Now, she wants him to be replaced by someone else. She is trying to say very clearly that she made a mistake by pusing Mr. Trivedi's name forward. This means that her suggestions are not to be considered when selecting a new candidate. After she became the CM of Paschimbanga, I am observing all non-sensical things happening. For example, coloring the whole town blue, hospital fire, hooch tragedy etc. She is not able to manage her own domain. This shows her incapacity in leading the state.
But the underlying factor remains, which is, who selected her as the leader?

from:  Anand Rajakrishnan
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 08:36 IST

Congress relationship with Mamata outfit amusingly reminds us of
frog and rat story. To be a permanent ally frog tied one of his
legs to one of the rat's. Inevitably when a hawk came swooping down
terrified frog leapt into river and dived to the bottom. His rat
friend was drowned and, since they were still tied together, the
rat's body floated up the surface pulling the frog with it.
"Delicious," said the hawk as he swallowed them both "two meals for
the price of one."Incidentally why "sulking Mamata" caption. Just say Mamata, as we all understand she sulks endlessly. She take the cake for most humourless dour personality in the Indian political landscape!

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 08:30 IST

Mr Trivedi has taken a bold step to save the Indian Railways and if he is sacked, to placate Mamta Banerjee it will send a very wrong signal about India's central leadership. However, to stop the railway budget from becoming a platform for populist gimicks by sucessive ministers, government should consider merging it with main budget. If the Defence budget could be part of the main budget, why can't be the Railway budget?

from:  Arindam
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 08:18 IST

Why no action by Indian Parliament was taken when the ex- Railway
minister used her post without been present in Rail Bhavan and refused
to be present at the sites of Rail Accidents ? Problem is that Hitler
Didi is a hurry to gain more powers without bothering to deliver results
and repair the broken systems she holds now in West Bengal.Limitation of
the current Governance Systems that serves only rich needs mamata
banerjee as its poster girl.

from:  Rakesh Manchanda
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 08:04 IST

The Fact: Rail gain a very nominal margin of Profit (1-2%) by increasing the Passenger fare. But there are so many other ways Rail can make a huge profit. It is always good for everyone not to increase the Rail passenger fair as long as possible. Oil, Gas aur Bus ki bhara barne par chillanewale ab nautanki mat karo.

from:  Pradip Ghatak
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 07:55 IST

India's UPA government's latest dilemma from the series of governance challenges
- "Railway Budget" and the shananigans with coalition partner Mamata Banerjee of
Trinamool Congress...

Government does not create wealth, people DO. Functioning government
administers the will of the people with integrity and humility; powered by the
courage of purpose and honesty.

Coalition Government; driven and divided by local / regional / national agenda in
an evolving and heterogeneous society like India is inevitable, if anything, a sign of
progressive interest and participation. That said, if there is a matter of public
interest and value, go to the people and explain the position, background, reason
and rationale; in simple language, eliciting value and with interest of "Public at
Large". People will "Get It", for one is always aware of and driven by "Self Interest".
What needs to precede though is the "Moral Authority", for one is endowed with
sensitive antenna which recognises "hubris" and "self-promotion"...everyone will
get it - give or take some time.

In fact, Mr. Trivedi has provided an excellent key / lead in this instance "Country is
more important than the Party" - wow, it has been a while since I heard or read
something as clear and courageous like this from India's political scene!!!

Stop viewing citizens from the lens of survival and entitlement; look through
service, custodianship and moral fortitude - surprise yourself - for "People Can
and Will get it".


from:  Satya Chari
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 06:45 IST

The malaise runs deeper. UPA's ally has taken obscurantist position
on many issues. Trinamool needs to decide what is it for and how is
it going to get there. West Bengal is stagnant while India has found
a way to grow. Recent census shows a state like TN having 40% of all
households having a two wheeler (scooter/motorcycle). Karnataka has
11% of its households owning a car or a jeep. When the states opt to
industrialize and find avenues to create jobs results will follow.
Running a predominantly agrarian society with average land holdings in
the range of 1-2 acres is going to keep people chained to poverty.
Trinamoool needs to understand that by opposing virtually every move
to achieve progress it is signing up to mire WB in poverty.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Mar 16, 2012 at 06:29 IST
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