New Delhi: Mamata Banerjee has met with the Prime Minister after he allegedly upset her by stating in Parliament that he regrets the departure of Dinesh Trivedi from his cabinet. Mr Trivedi is from Ms Banerjee’s party, the Trinamool Congress, which is a key member of the ruling coalition at the centre. Ms Banerjee asked for him to be removed as soon as he proposed hiking passenger fares in the Railways Budget he presented in Parliament last week.
“I had a good meeting…we discussed a lot of issues,” said Ms Banerjee after seeing the PM. She flew into Delhi from Kolkata last night after Mr Trivedi finally obliged her by submitting his resignation. For four days after she asked the PM to remove him, Mr Trivedi said neither the PM nor his party chief had directly asked him to step down.
In Parliament this morning, the Prime Minister used his Motion of Thanks on the President’s address today to meet at least one demand of the Opposition – clarity on Mr Trivedi’s status as minister. Dr Singh confirmed that last night he had received first an email and then a formal letter of resignation from Mr Trivedi. He said that he had accepted Mr Trivedi’s resignation and has forwarded the former minister’s letter to President Pratibha Patil. He also said that he regrets the departure of Mr Trivedi, who belongs to Mamata Banerjee’s party, the Trinamool Congress. Minutes later, Ms Banerjee retorted outside Parliament that the PM’s remarks reflect “a personal opinion” and one that her party does not share.
According to sources, the PM’s remarks also provoked Trinamool MPs to walk out during a vote on the National Terror Counter Centre (NCTC). Allies are expected to vote along with the government. The vote on the NCTC was prompted by the Left and the BJP, who had moved amendments to the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address. Basically, they asked for references to the NCTC to be deleted from the speech made by President Pratibha Patil in parliament last week.
While sharing that he had accepted Mr Trivedi’s resignation, Dr Singh highlighted the difficulties of coalition politics and with some irony lauded Mr Trivedi for having presented a “Railway Budget which promised to carry out the vision 2020 that was outlined by his predecessor.” Mr Trivedi’s predecessor in Rail Bhawan was Mamata Banerjee, who is his party’s chief, and demanded Mr Trivedi’s resignation for proposing a hike in passenger fares.
As soon as the Lok Sabha convened after the weekend, the BJP said the Prime Minister must address Parliament to explain the chain of events that led to the Rail Minister’s exit.
The BJP’s Yashwant Sinha said, “The PM is the head of the Cabinet. He has the right to give a portfolio to someone else. But he is also obliged to share information with Parliament. But we are discovering everything in the newspapers,” he said. “Dinesh Trivedi is in the House. He should also clarify the situation to Parliament,” Mr Sinha added. Gurudas Dasgupta of the Left also said the Prime Minister owes parliament an explanation. “A backstage drama is taking place. Parliament is in session and we don’t know what is happening,” he said.
Mr Sinha brought a smile to the Finance Minister’s face when he took a swipe at the PM saying he had great respect for Mr Mukherjee, who is Leader of the Lok Sabha; “the PM should have been leader but couldn’t make it,” Mr Sinha said. Dr Manmohan Singh is a rare Indian PM who is not a member of the Lok Sabha. He is a Rajya Sabha member from Guwahati.
Meanwhile, Mr Trivedi will come face-to-face with Ms Banerjee for the first time today since the controversy at a meeting of MPs of their party. He has not seen her since he presented his budget. He said last night that he continues to think of Ms Banerjee as his leader and has no plans to switch parties. Ms Banerjee simply said last night before leaving Kolkata for Delhi that she plans to meet “with all my people.”