It was an unprecedented drama, bordering almost on the farcical, that we witnessed on Wednesday. As Trinamool MP and railway minister Dinesh Trivedi presented the Railway Budget for 2012, it was as if all hell had broken loose.
Imagine a minister facing opposition from his own party for his budget. Imagine a minister facing a sack the day of presenting the budget. Imagine a Prime Minister praising his minister for “a commendable job” in the morning and then sacking him at night!
But then don’t imagine anymore. We saw all this being played out on Wednesday. In Didi’s raaj, every unimaginable has become possible.
I had bunked office to witness the tabling of the Railway Budget undisturbed. I even had my cell phones on the silent mode so as to absorb the nitty-gritties of the Budget. But then I was not prepared for the drama that was about to unfold. A confident Trivedi walked up to present his first budget with ‘due humility’. It was in fact, the curtain raiser to an unprecedented political crisis.
He dropped a virtual bombshell on announcing the hike in passenger fares, the first time up 10 years! A TMC minister defying the party stand on Populism? Unimaginable.
But what followed was perhaps not even remotely in our imagination. A furore erupted from the TMC quarters as their supremo Ms Banerjee aka ‘Ms Shajano Banerjee’ firmly opposed the decision on the price hike. Of course, she feigned total ignorance on the issue. However, every TV channel, cutting across political alliances, said Ms Banerjee had sent ‘quit’ signals to Trivedi a week before. Then, of course her feigned ignorance was “shajano” (a pretence), as is her wont. Would Trivedi be tendering his resignation? Or would he have the courage to do a Somnath Chatterjee? Would there be a rollback in fares? I watched on seething with anger as the farce was being played out.
Even now as I key in the words, Arnab Goswami is seen having a field day on Times Now probing and prodding, obviously jacking up the TRPs. It appears that Mr Trivedi was being made the sacrificial goat as TMC prepares to apply pressure on the UPA government to extract its pound of flesh.
Well, the Drama Queen is again into the eye of the storm, back on centrestage. To her, everything comes after her party, forget about the country, forget about development, forget about people. Her performance as the railway minister was simply abject. Most of the ‘projects’ announced by her has not even seen the light of the day. All I remember was pictures of her flagging off trains, accommodating ‘intellectuals’ in the payroll of Railways, naming Metro stations in Kolkata after eminent individuals, announcing a slew of projects left, right and centre. All expect catering to the motto of the Indian Railways — Safety, Security and Punctuality. All we were witness to were accidents after accidents, tolls going up with each case. She left the Railways in a real dire state, practically in the ‘ICU’, as Trivedi said in the press conference after the Railway Budget.
Of course, Trivedi didn’t say exactly that about his ’till-now’ boss. He only used the words ‘Railways in ICU’. As for who put it there? I only added up two and two!
I heard Lalu Prasad claiming that he had left a surplus of Rs 7,000 crore when he passed over the baton to Ms Banerjee. So where has all the money gone? Is Paschimbanga going the same way under the stewardship of our able chief minister? But of course, she inherited an empty coffer as far as West Bengal is concerned, as she had been shouting from the rooftops at every available opportunity. I wonder where all the money for painting the city blue is coming from. Where is the money for all the welfare projects she had been busy announcing coming from?
Recently, she tore apart a demand notice served on defaulting farmers. The incident had sent shivers along the spine of bankers who are toiling to reduce high NPAs. There was instant repercussion — Ananda Bazar Patrika reported of an incident when bank officials on a recovery drive were driven out by villagers. This cannot simply be treated as stray incident. All banks are reeling under mounting NPAs of high net worth borrowers, who are willful defaulters. They, too, would be encouraged not to pay their dues. It would have a catastrophic effect as banks would be unwilling to lend.
But back to the Big Sister. What is this morally bankrupt way of trying to gather some political mileage? Do we need such an unfortunate drama during the Budget Session? Is there no sanctity left in our political systems anymore? Why, if she had to oppose the fare hike, didn’t she sack Trivedi before the Railway Budget was presented? Why, if she has to show muscle power, doesn’t she withdraw support to the UPA government? Why does she want to have to the cake and eat it too?
The answers, for those who can’t see it, are simple. To her, development has never been the agenda. All she cared about ever had been her image. She had absolute no qualms in booting out the Nano project out of her state straight into the waiting hands of Mr Narendra Modi, who accepted the offer gleefully. She had herself raised freight hikes of essential commodities a number of times during her tenure as the railway minister. People were fools if they though leaving the passenger fares untouched meant not touching them directly.
Will we be fools again? Or will we stand up and shout aloud “Stop this Nonsense”? Will those eminent personalities representing the millions inside Parliament show some guts and tell her to shut up? Or are they just what Arvind Kejriwal thought what they are supposed to be?
The drama has just started. No points for guessing who the hero and who the villain is. All I know that is it won’t certainly be a ‘rom-com’.