Angry over the hike in passenger fares in the Railway Budget, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to remove her party nominee Dinesh Trivedi from the post of railway minister.
"Yes, I have written to the prime minister seeking his replacement with Mukul Roy, another union minister," Banerjee told PTI.
Mukul Roy, minister of state for shipping, is a senior leader of Trinamool Congress who had earlier held the post of minister of state for railways for two years till July last year.
The suave, US-educated Trivedi, 61, found himself in a piquant situation immediately after he presented his maiden railway budget in which he proposed an across-the-board hike in passenger fares to mop up an additional Rs 4,000 crore for spending on railway safety.
On a cue from TMC boss, Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, party MPs attacked the hike and demanded a roll back in keeping with her populist politics which has resulted in repeated trouble for the UPA government over issues such as FDI in retail and petrol price hike.
Banerjee followed up with a public declaration that she will not allow the fare hike. She complained she had not been consulted by Trivedi, which he confirmed.
It appeared for some time that the minister may work out a compromise with his party by rolling back the hike in lower class fares while leaving the upper class fare increase untouched.
In fact, there was speculation the that these events may be a good-cop-bad-cop act by TMC which would enable Banerjee to live up to her populist image while allowing Trivedi to garner revenue from upper classes.
However, the party upped the ante on Wednesday night by announcing that a delegation of its MPs would meet Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday and press for withdrawal of the increase. If there was no roll back, they would name someone else for Trivedi's job.
Landed with an unexpected political crisis, Singh denied that Trivedi had resigned and maintained that the government had the numbers in Parliament and was stable.
What could have angered Banerjee was Trivedi's steadfast defence of his budgetary proposals in the interest of the railways and the country. "I have pulled the railways out of ICU," he said.
Trivedi went on to assert, "I don't care about the job. (martyr) Bhagat Singh gave up his life for the country. I don't mind losing my job."
TMC's populist politics will also see another Parliamentary first--a cut motion by TMC against a budget presented by their own nominee in the cabinet.
Should TMC carry out its threat of replacing Trivedi the government would face an unprecedented situation of a ministerial change even before the budget is considered by Parliament.
Would the new nominee then roll back the proposals contained in a budget which the prime minister has described as "forward looking", is among the questions being asked in political circles.