Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has no qualms in mixing economics with politics, which is evident from her reaction to the railway budget, says Renu Mittal.
A fresh crisis has hit the United Progressive Alliance parivar with key ally Mamata Banerjee in an unprecedented step writing to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh asking that Union minister Mukul Roy be made the railway minister instead of Dinesh Trivedi. This comes on a day when the railway minister presented his maiden railway budget.
The Congress leadership had earlier refused to make Mukul Roy the railway minister because he is tainted.
It is learnt that both the Congress and Dinesh Trivedi have accepted this and he is now likely to be rehabilitated by the Congress Party.
This follows Mamata opposing the passenger fare hike in the railway budget presented by her party man Dinesh Trivedi. Mamata has demanded a roll back of the fare hike and the Trinamool Congress has threatened to move cut motions on the rail budget.
While Dinesh Trivedi has so far stuck to his guns saying that he would speak to Mamata and make her realise the need to increase fares for the sake of safety in the Indian Railways, he is also saying that just as Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for the nation, he is willing to sacrifice his job for the sake of the country.
Trivedi seems to have seen the writing on the wall rather clearly. While he himself would not offer to resign, sources say that Mamata may well sack him, which may leave him with no option but to join the Congress Party. But if Mamata sacks Dinesh it is unlikely that she would get the Railway portfolio back, since she does not have anyone with enough seniority to be given the job and the Congress is not willing to entertain a junior minister in the post of the railways, which is a high profile and high pressure ministry.
On Tuesday Mamata had sent a junior MP to the prime minister's dinner where an angry and exasperated Pranab Mukherjee had told her to explain to Mamata that allies do not move either amendments or cut motions against their own governments.
Mamata Banerjee had said her party was moving amendments on the President's speech but the amendments moved by her party have fallen through on technical grounds. They wanted a paragraph on NCTC to be deleted from the President's speech but the amendment has to refer to the motion of thanks on the President's address since the actual speech is over and nothing can be deleted from it. For the moment that crisis has been averted but with Mamata Banerjee and the attitude she has adopted, every day is proving to be a crisis.
Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee, who has been dealing with Mamata for some time, is said to be fed up with her tantrums and her style of working. The government is likely to face the next crisis when Mukherjee presents the general budget on March 16.
Mamata who is trying to occupy both the left space and the government space in West Bengal has been up in arms on key issues that are affecting the UPA government. From FDI in retail, to disinvestment to cutting subsidies, to increasing petrol prices etc. Mamata has a vision document on all these matters and this has left the government paralysed on issues of economic reforms.
Senior leaders in the government say it is a matter of who blinks first: The Congress or Mamata. The Congress wants to keep its powder dry for the vice president and president's election later this year, where as Mamata is more interested in tying up with regional groupings and bringing a candidate of her choice.
Whether the government can live to dictate a decision on this is in the realm of speculation, as party managers fear that events may take a momentum of their own after the decisive Uttar Pradesh defeat which has exposed the Congress for all its weaknesses.
The fact that Mamata Banerjee has no qualms in mixing economics with politics, as was evident on Wednesday on her reaction to the rail budget shows that a showdown may happen sooner rather than later.