Friday, July 5, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Mamata seeks PM’s intervention
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
After flexing her muscles during the past two days for a review of the bifurcation of Eastern Railway, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has come down several notches, seeking Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s intervention for resolving the issue.

Ms Banerjee is now willing to accept any portfolio provided the reorganisation of Eastern Railway scheduled to be effected from October 1 is kept in abeyance.

The leadership of the BJP-led NDA government is unwilling to play ball with Ms Banerjee as it believes that scrapping or reviewing the Cabinet decision to reorganise all zones of the Railways as demanded by the Trinamool Congress is not a prudent approach.

Such a move to accommodate the temperamental Ms Banerjee will leave the NDA government bare to other partners making similar demands to reverse Cabinet decisions which will be highly detrimental, besides creating avoidable complications.

Union Defence Minister and NDA convener George Fernandes, who was asked by Mr Vajpayee to liaise with Ms Banerjee to evolve a face-saving formula, threw up his hands observing that “the matter is with the Prime Minister.” At the same time Mr Fernandes said he was in touch with Ms Banerjee and remained hopeful that the matter would be resolved.

Meanwhile, Ms Banerjee left for Kolkata emphasising that the Vajpayee government must assure her party that bifurcation of Eastern Railway will be kept in abeyance which will pave the way for her joining the Union Cabinet.

Even though Mr Vajpayee is keen to induct Ms Banerjee in his Cabinet, some senior leaders believe retracting a Cabinet decision or even referring the matter to an experts committee for its opinion will affect the government’s credibility and have an adverse impact on it.

Union Railways Minister Nitish Kumar has declared that rescinding the Cabinet decision will be catastrophic for the Railways.

On her part Ms Banerjee has realised that her gambit of regaining the Railways portfolio in the Vajpayee government has boomeranged. She has also given up her preference for the Ministry of Surface Transport clubbed with Shipping.

It is obvious that she does not want to sever her links with the BJP-led NDA at this juncture and is keen to be a member of Mr Vajpayee’s Cabinet provided the bifurcation of Eastern Railway is put on the back burner for the present. Having come this far without an escape route, Ms Banerjee cannot turn the other way as that holds the portends of a split taking place in the Trinamool Congress.

Politically, the reorganisation of the zones of the Railways is critical for the BJP-led NDA with an eye on Bihar and making a dent in the bastion of RJD supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav. Mr Nitish Kumar has warned that keeping the decision in abeyance can lead to disturbances in Bihar just as Ms Banerjee and the Left Front government in West Bengal have warned that bifurcation of Eastern Railway can lead to mayhem in the state.

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