It was almost a last minute decision by the maverick Ms Mamata Banerjee that ensured elevation of her long-time loyalist Mr Dinesh Trivedi to the cabinet rank to take over as the new Railway Minister leaving her another Man Friday Mr Mukul Roy practically sulking.
Immediately after West Bengal poll results, the Trinamul Congres chief
had named MoS Shipping, Mr Mukul Roy to be the railway minister. In
fact, Mr Roy was also given an additional charge in his capacity of
Minister of State only and the perception in political circle and the
media was that Mr Roy’s elevation as the in-charge of Railway
portfolio was a foregone conclusion. The cabinet responsibility of the
Rail ministry thus, albeit temporarily, fell into the hands of the
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
Mr Trivedi is a long-time associate of Ms Banerjee and has always
stuck to his leader especially post 2004 Lok Sabha polls and 2006 West
Bengal polls, when Ms Banerjee was almost reduced to a political
irrelevance. This was the period when Mr Trivdedi was the face of
Trinamul Congress before the media in New Delhi. He was also
accompanying her most of the time during Ms Banerjee’s long-drawn
turbulent battle on Nandigram and Singur – which ultimately changed
the political fortunes of Ms Banerjee and also her bitter rivals, the
However, Mr Mukul Roy’s over-staying in Kolkata even after the state
assembly polls and not being able to connect well with media as a
central minister holding such an important portfolio has ultimately
gone against him.
According to sources, apparently the Prime Minister himself sounded
displeasure the manner Mr Roy was attending to his assignment as “the
main MoS Railway”. “Reportedly many files were called to Kolkata and
every time these did not go well with the PMO,” sources said adding
even after Prime Minister sought to review important and big ticket developmental projects himself there was no change in the style of functioning.
The last nail in the coffin for Mr Roy was his flat refusal to visit
the accident site at Malwa station near Kanpur after Sunday’s mishap
with Howrah-New Delhi Kalka Mail. Worse was his television byte that
the accident site was about 1000 km away from Kolkata.
By the time, damage was done and the Trinamul leadership had
apparently made up its mind for nominating Mr Dinesh Trivedi for the
crucial post. Mr Roy only worsened his chances of retaining the
portfolio when in a rare gesture he defied the Prime Minister and did
not visit the accident site at Rangiya in Assam. Needless to add, Mr
Roy was already sulking by then.
“The fact that Mr Trivedi is articulate and can face the media well
too has gone in his favour… other than of course the party supremo’s
confidence,” said a Trinamul Congress.
Immediately after swearing in, the new Railway minister Mr Trivedi in
a major damage control exercise left for Kanpur to make an on-the-spot
visit of the accident site and also meet the hospitalized passengers
of the ill-fated Kalka Mail.
“I m not gong to home nor Rail Bhavan. At the directives of Mamata
Banerjee, I am going to Kanpur,” Mr Trivedi told reporters. He would
also visit the accident site in Assam at the earliest.
Taking Ms Banerjee’s name over six times in his short impromptu media
briefing, Mr Trivedi said he would be following the “footprints of
Mamata Banerjee” and would use her Vision 2020 as a guide book to
perform as the Railway Minister. “Like my leader had said railway
safety means zero tolerance,” he said. “My priority will also be to
complete all the projects announced by our party leader either in
Bengal or outside”.
However, Trivedi had to face the ire of anguished passengers of the Kalka Mail near Kanpur though the Railways later made light of the episode saying such things often happen in the heat of the moment.
The new Railway Minister faced protests from family members of the
passengers injured in the Kalka Mail accident and was heckled
as he visited a hospital at Fatehpur. The angry crowd also raised
slogans against police and railway officials.
They alleged non-cooperation by police and railway authorities and
also blamed police for taking away bodies without informing family
members of the victims.
Meanwhile, Railway officials said the new minister would formally join
the Rail Bhavan and take over his responsibilities only on July
"As of now, I think he is still out of station," said an official
refusing to answer whether the new minister is also still camping in
Loyalties count so much that even defiance against the prime minister was not given much credence. Mr Mukul Roy continues to enjoy the position of a 'faithful servant' of party supremo Ms Banerjee. In any other country, in any other situation, someone should have at least tendered apology to the Prime Minister -- how soever political light weight he might be!