New Delhi: Amid
uproar in parliament, the Congress-led government got some respite on
Thursday afternoon after the warring Trinamool Congress declared there was
no threat to the ruling coalition.
"I categorically want to say
that the government of UPA II is properly settled and it will complete its
term," Trinamool's parliamentary group leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said,
bringing some relief to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
in the Lok Sabha that the Trinamool had not asked party colleague and
Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi to resign for presenting a budget that
sought to increase rail fares for the first time in a decade. Although the
government was still in crisis mode, it got more breathing space after
another critical ally, the DMK, also said that it too remained with the
Manmohan Singh government. "We are part of UPA II and will remain with UPA
II," DMK MP TR Baalu said.
The Congress put up a brave face after
coming under attack in parliament over the latest political storm, saying
differences within a coalition were but natural. "These things have
happened in the past too," Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika
Soni told reporters. "Each (coalition partner) has different political
"It is unfortunate but the leadership is looking at
it," she added. The fire fighting started after an explosive start to the
fourth day of parliament's budget session, with an aggressive opposition
determined to embarrass the government over the Trinamool's strident
demand that the proposed rail fares be rolled back.
Trivedi, who was earlier thought to have resigned, did not speak in the
Lok Sabha on Thursday. But he smiled when Finance Minister Pranab
Mukherjee told the house that he (Trivedi) had not resigned. Mukherjee
admitted that a letter had been received from Trinmaool Congress leader
and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee demanding the axing of the
rail fare hike.
After an unrelenting opposition forced an
adjournment of the house during question hour, Mukherjee chided the
government's critics for behaving like "petulant children". But
speculation persisted that Banerjee wanted Trivedi to be replaced by
another Trinamool stalwart and Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy.
Manmohan Singh too sounded placatory.
"Well, if anything like
this develops, we will consider it," he said when asked if Trivedi will
go. Mukherjee also told Lok Sabha that the railway budget was now the
property of the house, which would vote on the proposals made by the
He also took responsibility for preparation
of the railway budget, saying only the finance minister's approval was
needed and not that of either the prime minister or the cabinet. Later,
speaking outside the house, the mild-mannered Trivedi reiterated that he
had not been asked to resign by the prime minister or Banerjee but he
would go if he was asked to.
He, however, gently contradicted
Banerjee's claim that the party was not aware of his move to raise rail
fares. "I had earlier given indication about it. But I will not divulge
any details as I am a loyal soldier of the party." And in remarks bound to
displease Banerjee, he said he was duty bound to defend the budget.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj asked some pointed questions:
"Is Dinesh Trivedi's rail budget dead or alive?" Janata Dal-United leader
Sharad Yadav insisted that Trivedi could not have framed his budget
without the prime minister's knowledge.
Ironically, support for
Banerjee's demand came from her biggest foe, the Left. Communist Party of
India leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the budget sought to impose financial
burden on the common man and so was not acceptable to his party. The
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) too came out with a detailed
point-by-point criticism of the budget.
Also Read: Trinamool Congress rules out threat to UPA | Don't behave like petulant children: Pranab