Trivedi remains for now as Congress & Trinamool try to find middle ground

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 16 2012, 09:17am hrs
Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi continued to hold his post despite reports he had quit on Wednesday night following his party Trinamool Congress displeasure over the fare hike announced in the budget. The Congress, meanwhile, appears to have made up its mind that no precipitate action was to be taken till Pranab Mukherjees Budget speech had been read out.

The precarious position of the government's majority in the Lok Sabha following the rupture with the TC meant, however, that the government's reply to the motion of thanks for the President's address was delayed to Monday.

The government is in crisis, they are buying time and they are short of numbers, said the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, the BJP's Sushma Swaraj. Her party and the Biju Janata Dal, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have moved for an amendment to the motion of thanks on the matter of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and will demand a vote on it on Monday. The government wanted to avoid the vote today as the Samajwadi Party (SP) MPs are in Lucknow today for Akhilesh Yadav's swearing-in ceremony, said Swaraj.

In fact the government strategy seems to be to shore up its numbers by bringing the SP into the UPA fold formally. Sources said that Ram Gopal Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav's brother and Rajya Sabha MP, was being considered for the post of deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha as Congress' Rehman Khan was retiring in April. Mulayam Singh Yadav could also be looking at a role at the Centre, said a source. Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and senior Congress leader Motilal Vora were despatched to Lucknow to attend Akhilesh Yadav's oath-taking ceremony as Uttar Pradesh chief minister.

On Thursday morning, however, the fate of Trivedi and more pertinently that of the railway budget occupied the Lok Sabha. Is Dinesh Trivedi still the railway minister What is the status of the railway budget The House would like to know the government's response to this uncertain situation, Swaraj said in the Lok Sabha.

The government was quick to clarify its position, even if confusion still prevailed. The Constitutional position is that the railway budget is owned by the government. It is approved by the finance minister. Cabinet approval is not required. I own the responsibility and now it is the property of the House, Mukherjee said. This House has the inherent right to approve every proposal, make changes and decide the fate of the fiscal proposals.

At the same time, Mukherjee reminded the Opposition that they too had experience of running a coalition government. It is not unusual. Those who have run the coalition for six years, they know it much better, he said, referring to the pulls and pressures of running a coalition government.

Earlier, TC leader Sudip Bandopadhyay told the House that the party members had not asked Trivedi to quit. The Trinamool Congress has not even asked Dinesh Trivedi to tender his resignation. The matter has to be settled between my leader (TC chief Mamata Banerjee) and the Prime Minister, he said.

The government is totally settled and would complete its term, Bandopadhyay said. Quite clearly, some kind of deal was being worked for an honourable way out.