New Delhi/Kolkata: Ending days of stalemate, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi Sunday agreed to quit after speaking with his Trinamool Congress party chief Mamata Banerjee, a short while before an annoyed Banerjee boarded a flight to New Delhi to speak to the prime minister on the issue.
Trinamool supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced in Kolkata that Trivedi had told her he will quit.
Trivedi Sunday called up Banerjee and conveyed his decision when Banerjee was about to board a flight to Delhi amid speculation that the Trinamool could pull out of the United Progressive Alliance coalition if the prime minister did not sack the railway minister.
“Yes he (Trivedi) has called me up. He told me that he will abide by the party decision and will send his resignation. He also told me that he will stay with the party,” Banerjee told media persons before boarding her flight to the national capital.
Confirming the news, Trivedi told reporters in New Delhi: “I spoke to Mamata Banerjee a little while back just to get her confirmation. She did tell me that it was the party’s decision that I step down. Trinamool Congress was instrumental in making me railway minister. Banerjee’s instruction was clear.
“As a loyal soldier I must obey the party decision,” he said.
However, Trivedi yet again justified the hike he effected in the passenger fares in the railway budget, saying he was concerned on the safety aspect.
“I am concerned about safety. And because I was concerned I did what I did.”
“I tried my level best whatever little I could do in the interest of the railways, in the interest of the country. It is now duty of country to ensure that the railways remain healthy,” he said.
Trivedi reiterated that he chose to call up his party chief due to “confusion” created by Trinamool parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay’s statement on the floor of parliament that the party had not sought his resignation.
However, Trivedi did not answer queries as to whether he has put in his papers or when he would do so.
A source close to the railway minister told IANS in New Delhi that he may forward his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “soon”.
PMO sources said they have received no information about Trivedi’s resignation or of Mukul Roy, the union minister of state for shipping, being named as replacement.
Banerjee’s announcement has seemingly pulled the curtain down on the five-day deadlock after Trivedi fell out with the Trinamool leadership for hiking passenger fares in his railway budget Wednesday without the party’s purported approval.
Banerjee and the party leadership openly opposed the fare hike and demanded an immediate rollback of the tariffs.
On Wednesday night itself, Banerjee wrote to the prime minister recommending Trivedi be replaced as railway minister by Mukul Roy.
Earlier, till Sunday afternoon Trivedi refused to step down saying he would do so only if Banerjee gave him a written order to quit.
Trivedi’s phone call to Banerjee came when she was about to fly to Delhi.
Political analysts feel that Congress decided not to back Trivedi after Banerjee announced that “she will address her party’s parliamentary meeting tomorrow”. Speculation was rife in political circles that if the prime minister did not sack Trivedi, then the Trinamool might pull out of the UPA coalition with its 19 MPs.
Sensing Banerjee’s mood, the Congress seemingly decided to back out of the war of nerves that was going on between Trivedi, covertly backed by Congress, and Trinamool.