M A I N   N E W S

Trivedi on his way out
Cong bows to Mamata; core group to decide timing today 
Anita Katyal & Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 15
The Congress has, in principle, agreed to Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s demand for the removal of Rail Minister Dinesh Trivedi but the timing will be decided by the party’s core group, slated to meet here tomorrow.

Consequently, Dinesh Trivedi continues as Rail Minister with the government today resting speculation over his reported resignation in the wake of Mamata Banerjee’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nominating Mukul Roy in his place over his decision to hike rail fares.

The PM today denied having received Trivedi’s resignation and said he would consult Mamata before taking a final call on the situation as and when it arose.

Even TMC leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, who was seeking Trivedi’s resignation outside the House, said inside the Lok Sabha today that the party had never asked Trivedi to resign and that the UPA would complete its full term.

The UPA government would ideally like the status quo to continue till the end of the budget session to enable it to clear all its financial business. However, it would also not like to annoy its key ally at this juncture even though it has been assured of support from the Samajwadi Party (SP) which has 22 MPs in the Lok Sabha. It is also reaching out to the 21-member BSP.

That the UPA is warming to the SP was evident today when senior Congress leaders Motilal Vora and Pawan Kumar Bansal were deputed to attend Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s swearing-in ceremony in Lucknow.

Discussions on a possible Cabinet berth for SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav could be taken up when he comes to Delhi tomorrow for the presentation of the general budget. UPA sources disclosed that Mamata Banerjee backed off from demanding Trivedi’s immediate removal after the PM and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke to her and told her that changing a minister in the middle of a Parliament session would not send out a good signal.

But there were indications that Mukul Roy, who is currently a junior minister, may be sworn in as a Cabinet minister on Saturday in case Mamata renews her demand for Trivedi’s ouster.

UPA ministers also suggested that Mukul Roy need not be sworn in and that he could reply to the debate on the rail budget in his capacity as minister of state by merely changing his portfolio.

The discussion on the rail budget is slated in the Lok Sabha for Monday. If no changes are affected before the commencement of the debate, it could be assumed that Dinesh Trivedi will continue in his post and oversee the passage of the budget.

Besides taking a view on the change of guard in the rail ministry, the government has to decide on the TMC’s demand for a total rollback of the fare hike announced in the rail budget.

Although party leader Sudeep Bandopadhyay insisted that there would be no compromise on this issue, UPA sources said efforts were on to persuade Mamata to agree to a partial rollback on the fares of lower classes.

It was to tie up all these loose ends that the government sought time until tomorrow’s presentation of the general budget while the PM’s reply to the President’s address, scheduled for today, was postponed till Monday.

Congress sources said the government does not want any instability till the passage of the general budget, the completion of the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections and the President’s election in July for which it needs the support of both the SP and the Trinamool Congress.

The UPA has 35 per cent votes (including TMC) in the electoral college while the NDA has 22 per cent. If the Congress parts ways with Mamata, it will be difficult for it to get its own presidential candidate elected. 

Strange bedfellows

The UPA would ideally like the status quo to continue till the end of the budget session. It would not like to annoy its key ally at this juncture even though it has been assured of support from Samajwadi Party with 22 MPs. It is also reaching out to the 21-member BSP.



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