Dinesh Trivedi: Banerjee’s second choice as railway minister challenges his leader (Profile)March 14th, 2012 - 11:18 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi/Kolkata, March 14 (IANS) For long Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s trusted pointsman in New Delhi, Dinesh Trivedi, a trained pilot now in charge of the vast Indian Railway network, has fallen out with his leader less than a year into his tenure.
An articulate, suave and widely travelled politician, Trivedi landed in trouble after he rubbed West Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee the wrong way by raising railway fares against her purported wishes.
Over the past month or so, there was much speculation in political circles over Trivedi’s differences with Banerjee on the issue.
Banerjee, known for her populism and constant invocation of “Ma, mati, manush (mother, soil and people)” creed, was dead against any increase in fares for fear of alienating the poor people who voted for her in huge numbers in last year’s West Bengal assembly polls, and also because she was afraid of handing a weapon to her bete noire, the communists.
Trivedi, who comes from a business family, thought otherwise.
For him it was more important for the railways to mop up internal resources and make the ailing behemoth healthy and increase its safety and security levels in the interest of the passengers.
And despite the loud demands from his party for a roll-back of the fair hikes, and subtle suggestions that he put in his papers, Trivedi remained defiant. In a series of interviews, Trivedi expressed his mind.
“The railways was getting into ICU. I have pulled the railways from ICU. And I have made the railways healthy. I accept full responsibility… I’ve no hesitation in accepting that neither the party nor the leadership was aware of it (the hike).”
“For me, the country comes first, then the family, and then the party.”
He even referred to the martyrdom of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh to press home his contention that the post of the railway minister meant little to him.
Trinamool sources pointed out that though the 61-year-old Trivedi played a crucial role in maintaining the party’s liaison with national political leaders for years, he was not Banerjee’s first choice as railway minister after she demitted office on becoming West Bengal chief minister last May.
Banerjee had then handpicked his lieutenant, Mukul Roy, for the post, but it was said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervened and made it clear he disapproved of her choice.
It was then that Banerjee opted for Trivedi, who had been serving as minister of state for health since emerging victorious from Barrackpore constituency in North 24 Parganas district in the May, 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
Trivedi, known for filing public suits, stepped into Banerjee’s shoes in Rail Bhavan last June.
A couple of months before that, Trivedi reportedly offered to resign as minister of state for health and family welfare in support of social activist Anna Hazare and his movement against corruption.
The elevation to cabinet rank in the plum railway ministry was considered another feather in the cap for Trivedi, an MBA from Texas, who had worked hard during Trinamool’s troubled times for the better part of 1990s and most part of the first decade of the current millennium.
A former Congressman who switched over to the V.P. Singh-led Janata Dal, he made his maiden entry to parliament as a Rajya Sabha member in 1990 and remained there till 2008.
A commerce graduate from Kolkata’s famed St. Xavier’s College and an MBA from the the University of Texas at Austin, Trivedi was in the travel business before he joined politics.
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Tags: assembly polls, bete noire, bhagat singh, business family, freedom fighter, indian railway, internal resources, mamata banerjee, manush, political circles, populism, railway fares, railway minister, railway network, second choice, security levels, subtle suggestions, trinamool congress chief, trivedi, west bengal