Railway Minister Trivedi embarrassed by his own party

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Dinesh Trivedi
New Delhi, Mar 15: Within minutes of presenting his maiden budget, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi today found himself in a piquant situation with his own party TMC demanding roll back of the passenger fare hike proposed by him, triggering speculation about his continuance in office.

The mercurial TMC boss and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee declared publicly that she would not not allow the the hike in fares which Trivedi proposed in a bid to raise Rs.4,000 crore mainly for railway safety measures.

Publicly Trivedi stuck to his guns saying he has done his duty and he was not not afraid of losing his job even as he was backed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who described the budget as "forward looking".

However, there was speculation in political circles that the minister may roll back the hike pertaining to lower classes of travel such as the ordinary second class and sleeper class in a compromise that may satisfy Banerjee even as he would mop up additional revenue from the hike in higher class fares.

In fact, suggestions were also being made that TMC was playing a good-cop-bad-cop act with the minister doing his bit to restore health to the railways and Banerjee asserting her populist credentials under such a compromise.

Trivedi was asked about this speculation by journalists but he maintained that he was only doing his duty towards the country and was not not worried about the consequences. He could not not talk about roll back outside Parliament.

At the same time, the minister said, if his leader wanted him to quit he would readily do so. "I don't care about the job. (martyr) Bhagat Singh gave up his life for the country. I don't mind losing my job."

Asserting that his budget was an economic budget and not not a political one, the Minister said that he did not not want the railways to go the Air India way. "I have pulled the railways out of the ICU," he said.

Stating that he had not not consulted Banerjee on the budget, Trivedi said it was a "very big misconception" that Railways is run from Writers Building, the headquarters of the West Bengal government in Kolkata.

"She (Banerjee) did not not know anything at all and there was no no interference by her in any aspect of the budget," he affirmed.

Banerjee said as much at a public meeting in Nandigram where she admitted that she was not not aware of the move to hike fares in the budget.

An indication that TMC may settle for a roll back in lower class fare hike came from party MP and spokesman Derek O'brien who tweeted, "Railway budget...What was all that about increasing fares across the board? Upper class...May be ok...But all? Sorry, can't agree".

There was some confusion in the party though with another of its leaders and Union Minister Sultan Ahmed publicly supporting the hike. Railways need additional funds for which the fares had to be raised, he said.

The Congress on its part backed the hike saying it was "very minor" and necessary in view of the increase in fuel prices.

"As far as the fares are concerned, they were not not raised for a long time. The hike is very minor in view of the rise in fuel prices," Congress chief whip Girija Vyas told reporters.

PTI

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