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New railway minister's qualification: Loyalty to Mamata

Last updated on: March 20, 2012 10:18 IST

New railway minister's qualification: Loyalty to Mamata

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If the number of times a Trinamool Congress functionary mentions Mamata Banerjee's name at a public speech is an yardstick for loyalty, next railway minister, Mukul Roy, is undoubtedly the most loyal soldier of the TMC chief.

The trust is evident. Be it representing the TMC at Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal's swearing-in ceremony or overseeing the party's maiden electoral battle in Manipur (where the TMC bagged seven seats) - Roy has always been Banerjee's pick.

Roy's son Subhrangshu is also a Trinamool MLA from Bijpur constituency of North 24 Parganas.

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Image: Mukul Roy, extreme right, has always been Mamata's pick.
Photographs: Reuters

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Banerjee herself accompanied Roy (57) when he went to file a nomination for the Rajya Sabha a few days ago. Not only that, she made a point saying: "Mukul Roy is our candidate for railway ministry. He is a loyal soldier of the party... He is very qualified. Qualification does not only mean degrees, but experience and your contribution to human development."

The general secretary of the Trinamool Congress has Higher Secondary, BSc (Part 1) under the head of educational qualifications on the Rajya Sabha website.

But his biggest qualification was undoubtedly the tag of "Mamata's trusted man".

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Image: He is a loyal soldier, Mamata has said.
Photographs: Reuters

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Roy (57), who hails from the district town of Kanchrapara, in North 24 Parganas of West Bengal, joined parliamentary politics in 2006 as a Rajya Sabha MP.

But capitalising on the trust, Roy is leaving behind many senior party colleagues to make his way to Rail Bhavan. Roy was Banerjee's first choice as railway minister. He was the minister of state for railways and Banerjee had recommended him for the Cabinet post she was vacating.

Subrata Mukherjee, a senior TMC functionary, said: "Obviously, Trivedi was never Mamata's first choice. He was more of a Congress candidate, which is now evident in his Budget... This time she did not take a chance and herself went to Delhi to ensure Roy's Cabinet berth."

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Image: Roy joined parliamentary politics in 2006.
Photographs: Reuters

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However, the prime minister asked for another candidate and the TMC named Dinesh Trivedi. Roy had to be satisfied with the chair of minister of state in the shipping ministry, probably because he had earned the PM's wrath earlier.

In July, Roy defied the PM's directive to visit a train accident site in Assam. He, instead, chose to accompany his party chief to Jangalmahal.

"There is no need for me to go to the accident site now. I am not the railway minister. The prime minister is. I am only one of the three ministers of state," he had said.

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Image: In July, Roy defied the PM's directive to visit a train accident site in Assam.
Photographs: Reuters

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Considering the financial crisis the Indian Railways is passing through, Roy will have a tough task in striking a balance between his party's populist demands and the need to drastically improve the railway finances.

However, Roy does not seem to be too worried. When asked how he is going to balance both the responsibilities, Roy said: "I will follow our leader Mamata Banerjee's guidelines."

If performance is a yardstick, officials in the shipping sector believe that Roy has done nothing concrete for the development of the ministry during his tenure.

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Image: I will follow our leader Mamata Banerjee's guidelines, he says.
Photographs: Reuters

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"He spent majority of his time in Kolkata for promoting the party rather than focusing on his portfolio. Take for example, he was unable to find a solution to issues related to even Kolkata Port Trust - like draft problems or clearance of projects like Sagar Port," said a top Kolkata Port official.

A top railway official says: "Responsibility makes you realistic. This happened with Trivedi and I hope Roy also follows the same."

Trivedi, however, did not sound that optimistic. A day after presenting the Rail Budget, Trivedi's short reaction to the media, on Roy succeeding him, was "God help!"


Image: Trivedi said God help when told Roy will be the new railway minister.
Photographs: Reuters

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