Cong shows a little spine,keeps Didi waiting for Dinesh’s head

Party wants Budget process over before change; Mamata says it's all a Cong gameplan.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Published: March 16, 2012 1:43 am

The government is in no hurry to oblige Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on her demand to sack her party nominee Dinesh Trivedi as Railway Minister.

Taking note of her late-night fax nominating Mukul Roy as a replacement,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he would consider replacing Trivedi only if such a situation “develops”.

The Congress also dug its heels in with insiders confirming that a message had been passed on to Banerjee that she can ask the Minister to resign — as his party chief — but if she wants the government to relieve him,then she will have to leave it to the Prime Minister to handle the issue on his terms.

This came amid deepening distrust between the two parties with Banerjee accusing the Congress of engineering the Trivedi revolt. At a meeting of her MLAs in Kolkata this evening on the eve of the Assembly’s Budget session,she said: “Congress puro byapartai indhan jugiyeche,’’ (the Congress has fueled the whole thing.) It is their game plan.’’

The Congress chose not to react to this. “She did not make any public statement. We cannot make any comment on what she could have said at a party meeting,” said Shaqueel Ahmed,AICC observer for West Bengal.

For the government,sources said,the priority is to complete the Budget process and revisit this issue only after the Budget Session or,maybe,when Parliament moves into recess on March 31. The principal reason being that a new Railway Minister from Trinamool will take over with the express intent to disown the Rail Budget Trivedi presented. This situation is unacceptable to the government,sources said,as the Rail Budget,as presented,has the approval of the PM and the Finance Minister.

It’s learnt that the government has drawn up a list of tentative options for Trinamool in case Banerjee insists on Trivedi’s immediate removal: an assurance that his successor,in this case Mukul Roy,would defend the same budget and not start authorising rollbacks and changes; let the portfolio go back to the PM after Trivedi’s exit and then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee could respond to Rail budget debate – a new minister can be appointed later.

In other words,sources said,the government has decided to back the Rail Budget and take a call on any revision — or rollback — only after the Parliamentary debate on it. That would provide an opportunity for the UPA to gauge the sense from the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party too.

Broadly,the understanding in the government is that it is less dependent on the Trinamool than it was before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. With more options on the table,government managers are keen to explore every option to push its budget proposals through.

The Congress leadership too was said to have made up their mind not to yield to the Trinamool’s demand for a “complete rollback” and was seeking to persuade Banerjee not to press for Trivedi’s replacement for the moment. Until this evening though,the Trinamool Congress was adamant on a new Railway Minister replying to the debate on Railway Budget next week.

A final decision on the timing of Trivedi’s replacement was expected after Mukherjee presents his Budget on Friday. Sources said that the Congress top brass also has objection to Mukul Roy’s nomination as Trivedi’s replacement. Roy,incidentally,had run into difficulties with the PM during his stint as MoS Railways.

Asked as to when he will consider replacing Trivedi as demanded by Banerjee,the Prime Minister told reporters in Parliament House,“Well,if anything like this develops,we will consider it.” Trivedi maintained that he will resign if the Prime Minister or the TMC chief asks him to.

He remained defiant though. “My conscience is clear. If I have to present the Rail Budget once more,I would present the same Rail Budget again for the interest of the country. If anyone had any problem with the Rail Budget,they could have raised them at the parliamentary discussion on the budget afterwards and then I would have been guided by whatever Parliament would have decided. The Rail Budget is now the property of Parliament,and it is only the House which can take a call on it,” Trivedi told The Indian Express .

The Trinamool too is unwilling to take him on directly and wants to park the problem in the PM’s court. As TMC leader Sudip Bandopadhyay put it in Lok Sabha after the Congress asked him whether his party wanted to bring down the government. “First of all,I would like to say that neither the Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party nor the Trinamool Congress has ever asked Dinesh Trivedi to tender his resignation…Secondly,this is a matter to be settled between the Leader of my party Kumari Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh because whenever any change takes place in a coalition government,the decision is taken after a discussion between the leader of the party concerned and the Prime Minister. Here also it will be settled in that way only. Thirdly,I want to categorically reconfirm that the UPA-II Government is totally settled and it will complete its term.”

Earlier,when the Lok Sabha assembled today,Mukherjee confirmed that the government received “one communication” from Banerjee to the Prime Minister late on Wednesday night. “The government has not yet taken any action on it. As and when the government will take action,the House will be informed. So far as the question of resignation of the Railway Minister is concerned,Prime Minister has not received any resignation letter from the Railway Minister,” he said.

Opposition leaders including Sushma Swaraj,Sharad Yadav and others targeted the government for the “Constitutional crisis” due to the the unprecedented situation arising out of a coalition partner’s demand. “Is Dinesh Trivedi Railway Minister or not? Is the Rail Budget presented by him alive or dead?” asked Swaraj.

In Kolkata,the harshest criticism came from Firhad Hakim,state minister for urban development who said Trivedi had betrayed the party and the people. “You were elected with Mamata Banerjee’s portrait with you. Saying that he had taken Railways out of ICU was an obnoxious statement. You are commenting on the performance of your leader who was your predecessor,’’ he said.

(With Sabyasachi Bandopadhyaya,Kolkata)

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