Mamata tells Trivedi to roll back fare hike or resign

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018

Ms Mamata Banerjee

The Railway Minister, Mr Dinesh Trivedi, might pay a high price for ‘daring' to break his party boss Ms Mamata Banerjee's ‘unwritten' rule: don't touch passenger fares. The Trinamool Congress supremo has reportedly told Mr Trivedi to either rollback the fare hike proposal or resign from the UPA Cabinet.

The UPA managers are trying hard to avoid a crisis, but it appears as if Didi might win. Hinting at a rollback, the Congress said it was up to Parliament to take a decision on the fare hike.

Soon after the Budget speech, leader of AITC Lok Sabha group and Minister of State in the health ministry, Mr Sudeep Bandyopadhyay, said the decision to hike the rail fare was against his party's ideology. “We are completely opposed to the decision to hike the fare. Our leader Mamata Banerjee has taught us keep in mind the interest of common people before taking any decision. This announcement is against the common man and we have urged Mr Trivedi to roll it back immediately,” he said.

The AITC leader and MoS Urban Development, Mr Saugata Roy, said his party would take a decision to end the crisis soon.

But Opposition parties see this as political gamesmanship and termed the Trinamool Congress's criticism as an “eyewash”.

The BJP has also condemned the proposal to increase the fare. The BJP General Secretary, Mr Ananth Kumar, said the Rail Budget was anti- aam aadmi.

The Congress said it wasn't opposed to a fare hike. “We are not opposed to the fare hike. We will try to evolve a consensus in Parliament on the issue,” said the Congress spokesperson, Mr Rashid Alwi.

Former railway minister, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, said Mamata Banerjee should tell her party's minister to work for the interest of the common man.

“Railways was a jersey cow when I was the minister. Now it has stopped producing milk. I don't understand the logic behind price hike,” he said.

Kolkata Bureau adds: Mr Dinesh Trivedi on Wednesday faced scathing criticism from his party, All India Trinamool Congress, for proposing a passenger fare hike.

“We were not aware that there would be a hike in passenger fares. It was done, without keeping us in the loop. I have asked the TMC Parliamentary committee to take corrective action. I assure you that train fare will not increase,” Ms Mamata Banerjee said while addressing a meeting at Nandigram in East Midnapore district, approximately 150 km from the city.

The drama started soon after Mr Trivedi presented his maiden Budget at the Parliament. Senior Trinamool Congress leader and the party's Rajya Sabha MP, Mr Derek O' Brein, tweeted on a micro-blogging site expressing his displeasure about the fare hike proposal.

“Railway Budget... what was all that about increasing fares across the board? Upper class... may be ok...but all? Sorry, cannot agree,” he tweeted making it clear that his “party has issues on the content” of the Rail Budget.

Red-faced leader

The Rail Budget today left Trinamool Congress chief red faced. Informed source told Business Line that soon after announcement of fare hike proposals, Ms Mamata Banerjee called her close aide and leader of TMC Parliamentary party, Mr Sudip Bandyopadhyay.

The instruction was loud and crisp: “Ask him (Trivedi) to roll back (fare hike) or resign.”

What particularly surprised the Trinamool camp is the loan extended by the Union Finance Ministry to railways to take up safety measures.

The development came at a time when Ms Banerjee had been publicly accusing the Centre for inadequate financial assistance.

While it is not known if Mr Trivedi will resign, some analysts point out that it will be difficult for TMC to take any drastic measures against the UPA Government. Politically, it may not be correct to bring the UPA Government down as it would side her with BJP and Left, a source pointed out.

Published on March 14, 2012

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