The Trinanmool Congress has opposed Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi’s announcement of a marginal hike in passenger fares ranging from 2 paisa per kilometre to 30 paisa per kilometre in various categories of trains. Platform tickets have also been raised from Rs 3 to Rs 5.
Just as Trivedi finished his Railway Budget speech, his party colleague Dereck O’Brien went on the twitter to oppose the hike. A little later, Trinamool Congress senior leader and Union minister Sudip Bandhopadhyay said his party was not consulted by Trivedi.
Trivedi himself said he had not consulted his party and the decision to effect the hike was taken by him “consciously” as the Railways was going through a “difficult phase” and faced a severe financial crunch.
Interestingly, Trivedi’s ministerial colleague, Sultan Ahmed, who also belongs to the Trinamool Congress, said the hike was only “marginal” and no body should complain or oppose!
Is the Trinamool Congress deliberately speaking in two voices just to deflect criticism that it broke its promise not to effect a hike in fares?
Is Mamata Banerjee playing the good cop and letting Trivedi play the bad cop? Or will she force him to roll back the hike or quit?
One thing is clear. The latest flip-flop has only added to the Congress’ worries over the UPA’s stability. Will Mamata strike at the UPA to pave the way for fresh elections? That question has only got more serious as Parliament’s budget session gets underway.
A day ago, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee sought to convey to the recalcitrant ally at a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister for the UPA allies not to press for amendments in an official motion in Parliament for thanking the President for her address– just because Mamata is opposed to Home Minister P Chidambaram’s pet project, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
Mamata is livid with the government for including the NCTC as one of its achievements in the President’s address when she had opposed it, along with other non-Congress chief ministers.
Mukherjee tried to convey to the Trinamool Congress that the Opposition would only take advantage of a UPA-ally sponsored amendment and force defeat of the government’s motion. But that’s the last thing she is worried about.
An early election to the Lok Sabha, her party leaders say, could mean at least 30 of the 42 seats from West Bengal for Trinamool Congress. That translates into greater leverage in the next Lok Sabha and the next government!