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Mukul Roy to be India's new Railway Minister

Last updated on: March 15, 2012 09:15 IST

Mukul Roy to be India's new Railway Minister

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BS Reporters in New Delhi/Kolkata

Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi was sacked hours after he defied his leader Mamata Banerjee and his party, the Trinamool Congress, by raising passenger fares in the Railway Budget 2012-13.

Banerjee asked the Prime Minister's Office to replace Trivedi with Mukul Roy, a Rajya Sabha MP.

"Yes, I have written to the Prime Minister, seeking his replacement with Mukul Roy, another Union minister," Banerjee told the PTI.

"Ask the Prime Minister's Office. They will speak on this.

"I cannot tell you anything at this juncture," Roy told Business Standard.

PMO officials said while they had got a request from Trinamool Congress MPs for a meeting with the PM, no letter recommending Trivedi's replacement had been received till late Wednesday night.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: Mamata Banerjee with Mukul Roy (extreme right).


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Banerjee was in Nandigram when the hike in fares in the Railway Budget was announced.

She told reporters: "We did not know there would be a fare hike. Our party does not endorse this.

"I assure you, we will not allow any fare hike."

But Trivedi stuck to his guns and said he would not roll back his proposals under any circumstances.

Enraged at this, Banerjee reached Kolkata late in the night and called for a party meeting at her residence at Kalighat.
Roy's name came up then.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: Former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi.


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This is not the first time Banerjee has attempted to get the railway ministership for Roy.

When the ministry was offered to her party, Roy's name was forwarded by Banerjee.

However, the PM put his foot down, asking for another candidate.

The party then named Trivedi.

Trivedi, on the other hand, was unrepentant and unapologetic about the provisions of the Budget and asserted ownership with pride.

"Those who thought the Railway Budget would be written in Writers' Building (the office of the West Bengal chief minister) were wrong. I am the Railway Minister and I made this Budget," he said.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: Mamata Banerjee.
Photographs: Reuters

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He added the crisis Indian Railways was facing was not an overnight phenomenon, and the last two or three Budgets had contributed to it.

Trivedi's predecessor in the ministry was his current party boss, Banerjee.

Banerjee's rage was no secret.

Minutes after Trivedi finished presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha at about 1.45 pm, a visibly worried TMC parliamentary party chief, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, was seen striding up and down outside Trivedi's room in Parliament, talking on his cell phone to Banerjee.

Trivedi was still in the House.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: Sudip Bandyopadhyay.


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Other party leaders and Members of the Parliament Kalyan Banerjee (chief whip), Subrata Bakshi, Saugata Roy and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy were closeted in the minister's room.

So incensed was Banerjee that she did not talk to Trivedi directly and made Bandyopadhyay her emissary.

While everyone was inquiring about the rail minister, Bandyopadhyay was looking for drinking water.

He then stepped out to address the waiting media without waiting for Trivedi further; he had taken down verbatim the response of his party chief on the back of a large brown envelope.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: A Trinamool Congress rally.


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Accompanied by Kalyan Banerjee and Bakshi, he announced: "The TMC is completely opposed to any fare hike.

"Mamata Banerjee was not in the know of this and was not consulted.

"The party believes in not burdening or taxing the people.

"Regardless of whether the hike is two paise or four paise, it is a burden on the people. We have told Trivedi to roll back the fare hike."

The fact that Trivedi thanked Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee at least twice in his speech also did not go down well with the party.

Bandyopadhyay made it a point to mention this.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage



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"The finance ministry does not have a favourable attitude to West Bengal. 

"But, Trivedi has thanked him (Pranab Mukherjee) fervently".

That Mukherjee offered guarded praise for the Budget incensed the Trinamool Congress even more.

"The proposals the Railway Minister has made. . . If they are effectively implemented then surely it will provide the elbow room to the railways to build up the capacity in various areas," Mukherjee said.

Others, however, said Banerjee's reaction was just a tantrum for show.

"It is all concocted and artificial," scoffed Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta.

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"This is a way for Mamata Banerjee to distance herself from a move that is anti-people. If she was really serious about opposing the move she should have walked out of the United Progressive Alliance," he said.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury criticised the Budget extensively.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance was predictably critical of the Budget.

"It is a directionless and anti-people Budget," BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, adding that without taking effective steps for ensuring security, facility and time, "announcements have been made for an expensive journey".

The Congress was calibrated in its response, not wanting to add to Trivedi's problems: 'The party supports the Railway Budget' was all that spokesman Rashid Alvi would say. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailed the Budget as 'forward-looking'.

Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage



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