Mamata's ultimatum: End of the road for Trinamool-UPA alliance?

Remove Dinesh Trivedi as Railway Minister, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today, ending the suspense over the fate of the minister after he presented a budget which his party claimed was against its core philosophy. She has suggested the name of Mukul Roy as Trivedi's successor.

Earlier in the day, in an unprecedented move, the party had rejected the Railway Budget presented by its own minister, bringing out the fissures in the party as well as the deepening distrust between the Trinamool Congress and the UPA. Trivedi, in clear departure from the populist position of his party, had proposed across-the-board hike in train fares.

Mamata's latest action leaves the prime minister in a Catch-22 situation. If he refuses to oblige the Trinamool chief, she might say goodbye to the UPA, leaving it in a crisis. His refusal would also send a wrong message to other alliance partners. In coalition politics it is accepted practice that the prime minister goes by the names recommended by the leaders of the alliance partners.

Late night politics. Image courtesy PIB

If he accepts Mamata's demand then it means abject capitulation. He cannot be seen to being arm-twisted to take a decision on his team of ministers. The Railway Budget is cleared by the cabinet and thus, becomes the government's proposal. Obliging the Trinamool chief means making the cabinet look ineffective and powerless.

The UPA, which meets for an emergency meeting to discuss the issue, would have to take a hard call on its equations with Mamata which has been deteriorating ever since she became the chief minister of West Bengal. She was expected to be satisfied with a rollback after Trivedi's hike proposal but she seems to have taken matters to a point of no return for both now. She, according to party sources, was aware of the fare hike proposal.

The tension between Trivedi and the Trinamool leadership had been brewing for sometime now. The differences are ideological as well as personal. The former was summoned by Mamata after having a closed door meeting with Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. Trivedi, who is close to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, reportedly followed his wishes in his budget. He is likely to be rehabilitated in the Congress if he is dumped by his party.

Trivedi, on his part, has made it clear that whatever he did was in the interest of the railways and the country. He also said he was not worried about his job. It seems he was mentally prepared for the consequences of his budget.

The latest development might leave the Trinamool Congress a divided house. There were clear indications today that some in the party supported Trivedi's budget. The Congress could try to engineer a split in Mamata's party. However, the chances of it look remote at this point.

Updated Date: Dec 20, 2014 09:01 AM

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