Rail Minister Dinesh Trivedi resigns

NEW DELHI: Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, who presented his first railway budget yesterday, is said to have resigned today following extreme opposition from his own party – TMC - to his proposal of hiking passenger fares.

Mukul Roy, another TMC MP, will most likely replace him as party chief Mamata Banerjee wants him to be the new rail minister after the firing of Trivedi.

Trivedi is said to have sent in his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this morning.

Reports suggest that a rollback in fare hike can now take place after the presentation of the General Budget on March 16. This is what Mamata has demanded and the Congress is said to have accepted her demands.

Furious at the hike in passenger fares, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had asked the prime minister to fire as Trivedi justified his proposals to increase fares and remained defiant.

Yesterday, under fire from his own Trinamool Congress members for having increased railway fares, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi had justified his move. A defiant Trivedi, however, had also dismissed the idea of quitting, saying that he was 'not afraid of God' and would not roll back railway fare hike at the cost of compromising passenger safety, while speaking to a television channel.

Trivedi also said that he had not consulted Mamata Banerjee before proposing the fare hike, confirming the TMC leader's outburst against the increase in fares.

For the record, this is the first time that passenger rail fares have been proposed to be increased in almost a decade.

Barely minutes after the Railway Minister and TMC MP Dinesh Trivedi had announced a hike in passenger fares across all classes, his own party had blasted him for the proposals.
Mamata Banerjee said that the TMC had not been informed about the rail fare hike.

"We had the portfolio of railways. At that time we had done several developmental works. Today the rail fare has been increased we were not aware of it. Our parliamentary party has already opposed it," Banerjee had said in Nandigram yesterday.

"We will not accept the fire hike. We will not allow the fire hike to happen for the sake of the common man... We are totally against it. I can assure you this," Banerjee had said.

TV reports suggested that Mamata has said that the railway budget cannot be passed with the support of the Trinamool Congress.

Trivedi's justification -- that the rail fare hike has been proposed to take care of the rising expenses on security and modernization of the railways and to provide better amenities to passengers - did not go down well with his own party members.

Other party members too raised a war cry against Trivedi's proposals.

Trinamool Congress MP S Bandopadhyay, criticizing Trivedi's budget, said that party was not consulted before the railway minister presented the budget.

Another party MP, former quiz-master Derek O'Brien too blasted his colleague for the fare hike on Twitter, saying: 'Railway Budget...what was all that about increasing fares across the board? Upper class...maybe ok...but all? Sorry, cannot agree.'

Meanwhile, the Congress has called it a budget for all, with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee describing it as 'positive'.

Stating that people will happily accept modest hikes in rail fares, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said empathised with Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi who was put on notice by his party Trinamool Congress for raising passenger fares.

'All said and done, I'd hate to be in Dinesh Trivedi's shoes today. Today was supposed to be the highlight of his political career. Poor chap,' Abdullah said on Twitter.

The chief minister added: 'We take populism to ridiculous levels. I genuinely believe people would happily accept the modest hike if safety and quality of service better.'