Of the Railway Budget and the Theatre of Absurdity

Dinesh Trivedi

Has Dinesh Trivedi been made a scapegoat in the ugly political drama that unfolded following the presentation of the Railway Budget?

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.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8ivAcNmkq8&w=560&h=349&rel=0]

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.

Mamata Banerjee

What is this morally bankrupt way of trying to gather some political mileage?

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’.

Images courtesy: TV grabs
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Soumya Datta

About Soumya Datta

The author is a sports aficionado, having participated in various forms of sports like football, cricket, hockey, table tennis since school days.He is an avid watcher of English Premiership League and a die-hard supporter of Arsenal.
24 comments
jyotirmoy hazra
jyotirmoy hazra

Problem is elsewhere and politics is carried in a very very cunning way. Fact is that , had the Railway been forced to run in the way it had run, the Railway Deptt. would have been dead and would have carried to KEORHATALLA  a doorstep away from KALIGHAT.

There would have been no Railway, no accidents,no tracks and no means for the minister to collect fund for..... And who is caring for commoners? Is anybody thinks safe while he/she boards train? What time is taken by  a local commuter in train  to come to Howrah from Lilluah?So it was important for the Fuherer for survival of Rail and at the same time dishwon the responsibility for hike in fare. And in this chance she would draw attention of the WORLD. Now, the Rail is out of ICU,it will generate fund by partial roll back, didi will take credit for better functioning in the coming year.She poses a messiah for poor. But u must know, basically a fascist is anti working class.

 

IT IS WHAT EXACTLY DONE BY MUSSOLINI AND HITLER. Either way she gains, politically.

 

 

Anju Chirimar
Anju Chirimar

I agree with all your views here Mr Dutta.......I just feel that the deeper problem has always been that we as the citizens of a democracy are also doing Drama. We knew with the Nano case example, that TMC has only one agenda- anti CPIM. Yet, we voted for Didi's party, just to vote out the Left. What is the result? Now most people are unhappy still.....obviously, a government which cannot pragmatically visualise any growth for a state, cannot keep the people happy by pure Drama......your article brings out the truth. It is just sad that all of us, are also playing our role in such a Drama by accepting it......I wish I had the rationale and political maturity to comment.....

TamalRoy
TamalRoy

What a coincidence ! Railway minister becomes 'Sahid' on the 'Sahid diwas' who is from Barrackpore; land of Sahid Mangal Pandey.

Is it the biggest political drama we the poor indians had ever witnessed ? After this Who will expect to increase our voteing percentage .

All the concerns which is apparently showing against raising ticket price is absolutely fake. And to realize this one need not to do doctorate in Economics. Where was her ( and her petty supporters ) concern when freight charges were hiked?? Doesn't it impact more on our developing economy? Doesn't that 'Doctorate' lady ever hear the term trickle down effect ?

Jago India jago...... Jago Bengal jago.

All those are 'sajano' are not sajano and all those are 'sajano noy' are sajano. Yes ,this is the truth.

SoumyaChatterjee
SoumyaChatterjee

Even the pro-TMC people I think by now has been able to say that these are Didi-Dramas. How long will we be fooled into believing what she wants us to... My perception is that it is a nice pragmatic budget. In the last 10 yrs our salary has become almost double what it used to be if not more, so this fare hike wont do much of a damage. But how many of us know that 5th of March the Freight fare was increased by 23%.. Why dint didi bother to show solidarity to her "maa-mati-manush"?? Someone really should ask he this.. and sir, as usual very well written. 

jyotirmoy hazra
jyotirmoy hazra

Bhaider didi wants to remain popular here in Bengal by  avoiding responsibility of taxing people. And she thinks that none will question how the milk prices from govt dairy as well the charges of electricity in calcutta goes up in her regime under her signal. And practically in this hullabol none is questioning that issue, on the streets. None is questioning on the street , why and how the railway freight charges are thrown up silently.As an ex-branch manager now I feel how difficult it is for present bm s to collect dues from the  loan defaulters. All what is done by her is a gallery show. But it will not last unless the left allows it to continue.She is not allowing bus fares for singularly owned buses , to rise. By all this the strength of private buses are diminishing everyday. Banks will run out. She without trying to mobilise revenue by herself going Delhi for blackmailing. Dr Meghnad Desai rightly put a question that without taxing Bengal how she can like to rob central exchequre what the people of other states, have deposited to Delhi for central purpose.I read recently, how the fascists in Italy and also in Germany came to power. And how the entire population of those severely punished later. May God bless MA-MATI-MANUSH-M

joydeep chatterjee
joydeep chatterjee

@SoumyaDatta

 

Unprecedented! The first word which came to my mind after observing the shocking series of events staged consequent to the third railway budget of the second term UPA government. Our entire parliamentary system looked under threat. The dictatorship,prima facie, painted the face of the government black. Mr. Singh, for once ,put up your hand and show the door.

 I always felt that  the railway budget of our country is prepared on the political feasibility. Economic rationales are more often bypassed. Madam banerjee’s cry for common citizen gets diluted if you look at the huge hikes in fret charges. No single concern is being shown to that. How long will this so called populist attitude continue? The flood gates have finally opened. If we look at the increase in electricity fares in Kolkata,it would be somewhere between 12-15%.She, by this time was smartly using up the ‘Aaam Admi’ argument. The cry is nothing but a pure vote bank politics by her keeping in view the upcoming panchayet elections. I think there’s still a hell lot of drama yet to unfold. Congress floor managers have simply over witted her by playing the SP card.After all experience always prevails. When will this ‘didigiri’ end?

Oh,sorry. Thank a lot sir for the wonderful article and fulfilling my wish.

Arunangshu Paul
Arunangshu Paul

 The political drama being enacted is a shameful display of pettiness and irresponsibility. While we all may be having a voyeuristic and vicarious pleasure by watching the absurd comedy of the lowest level , the indications are that this will not be the end of it. Much more is to come in the next few days.

Which makes us wonder on the relevance of having the present political system of governance . But this is also a natural corrolary of the apathy which the people show towards politics in particular and the governance in general. Though it appears a ridiculous logjam supposedly on political considerations, it is basically an exercise in brinksmanship and posturing. The government at the centre is weak along with the Congress Party itself and with the scent of a fresh political alignment , everyone is trying to position themselves to get a bigger share of the pie.Responsibility for the nation, accountability to the people, duty enshrined in the constitution,judgement to be meted out by history and long term effects on the country, all these are being overlooked by the self seeking petty individuals who have got much higher mantles than they deserve.

That's only because the more deserving people are either disinterested or the system perpetuated by the vote bank politics based on the sentiments of the common people has become too strong for anybody to bring down.Politics has always been the last refuge of scroundels but now it has become the first choice of rogues.

 @SoumyaDatta 

BARNALI
BARNALI

MAMATA became the Bengal chief minister, a sadhu gave her three boxes. He told Banerjee to open them one by one whenever she faced a crisis. When her government was faced with reports of poor healthcare infrastructure in the state, she opened the first box. A piece of paper inside advised her: "Blame your predecessors for everything." She did that. Later, when the Maoists started attacking Trinamool Congress workers in Junglemahal, she opened the second box. "Do what your predecessors did," said the note inside. She invited big business to the area and announced that government will drive the Maoists out. The third box is yet to be opened!.....BUT I THINK ALREADY OPENED AND THE 3RD ONE IS 'RAILWAY BUDGET' AND GOT THE SUGGESTION ' DO NOT BLAME OR DO WHAT YOUR PREDECESSORS DID .. DO SOME THING NEW OF YOUR OWN CHOICE' :)

koushik.maji
koushik.maji

What a Drama with full of comedy is going on.....TMC suprimo is telling that is against common people's interest. But I think common people want good service with security in the cost of small increase in fare..but she is always right. She knows everything.......From medical science to Economy. Why there were no development in her tenure? What is the present status of the promisses made during her budget? Actually she can do nothing except cheap Politics? We can't believe that she didn't know anything regarding this budget. Now she wl tell that "see I am with common people. I even change my own minister who is against common people!!!!!!!!!!!!" The budget usually opposed by the opposition. But this time is opposed by the party who propose it.  What a jock!!! Now she is telling it is conspiracy of Cong. More than a Rail budget it becomes a matter of Rail min VS TMC suprimo. Question is wl there be another Rail Budget by new Rail Min??!!. Once again we can see her nature of dictatorship. In her party She is the beginning , she is the end, she is everything. No body has anything to say of their own. The have to tell her words only. They have to follow her only. So what a democracy!! She is HIROK RAJA ( Rani)of modern day........

sharmi
sharmi

 @SoumyaDatta Our Loving DIDI has gone mad..she is mentally disturbed after getting such a responsible,highly respectable position... pls dont mind at any of our words... we should pray to our God so that she gets well soon... Amen.. :-(  one more option is there anybody can book a seat for her in Ranchi... they will sure treat her freeof cost.. if not WE will pay for her... dont wrry dear party workers... we will do the same for you guys also... but some of you need to get some training on how to bahave properly... dont b ashamed... this offer is open for any party worker of any party... we are not biased of any colour in this case...this type of drama is not a first timer.. we have seen in earlier also.... The famous Park Street case,ordering the banks on not to recover loan by selling asset,show cause to school teacher for not attaining school on the strike day.list is endless..now the Railway..she thinks West Bengal starts at singur ends with NandiGram.. ms Banerjee WB is not that small...  i dont know what is her problem... what does she wnna prove!!! People are getting irritated,cant she feel that... she promised to do this do that after being CM.. but what is she doing?? our Railway which has one of the largest network in the world,world's 2nd largest employer,carry over total population of Australia everyday...we dont wanna loose it Dear CM... We dont wanna see it as another Air India...dont make it WB...enough is enough.. now would u please stop doing such stupid things.. grow up mam...grow up...So please GET WELL SOON..... Everyone pray for her...

Arinjoy Sur
Arinjoy Sur

one basic lessons that our politicians have choose to forget...politics and economics are two different schools..one need not meddle with the basics of the latter to earn brownie points in the former!!!!

Sreyaa Guha
Sreyaa Guha

Well, Logic and CM never went together. She has opposed again as is her wont. Why does not any of her colleagues ask her to give an alternative solution  to any problem she points her finger at or suggest sane methods of how things SHOULD work (cholbe)  instead just enchanting "cholbe na cholbe na" (if at all she is capable of any such thing)?

SoumyaDatta
SoumyaDatta

I thank all of you, who have read the article. I am glad you have shared the same seething anger that I felt while witnessing the drama being enacted in Delhi. Shame on Indian Politics....

anindya ghose
anindya ghose

One of the finest articles I have read....kudos to you Soumyada!!!

As I have mentioned earlier (may be I am repeating myself too often, but I am not ashamed of it) this is how fascism works while coming to absolute power.

Anyone interested please go through 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich' by William L. Shirer. It documents Nazi Germany. It will help us all to find out the similarities between the two maniacs and their  cronies.

It will be great to keep in mind that fascism garners support through populist measures & it's our duty to counter it through any way which is possible.

In a hilarious tone -

Didi gelo bomke, Sudip gelo chomke Bangla gechhe thomke...

Didibhai jai....rail juto pai

Sara desh amader CM er dike fyal fyal kore chai...

 

 

AnjuChirimar
AnjuChirimar

I agree with all your views here Mr Dutta.......I just feel that the deeper problem has always been that we as the citizens of a democracy are also doing Drama. We knew with the Nano case example, that TMC has only one agenda- anti CPIM. Yet, we voted for Didi's party, just to vote out the Left. What is the result? Now most people are unhappy still.....obviously, a government which cannot pragmatically visualise any growth for a state, cannot keep the people happy by pure Drama......your article brings out the truth. It is just sad that all of us, are also playing our role in such a Drama by accepting it......I wish I had the rationale and political maturity to comment.....

Kausik
Kausik

 @JishnuBhattacharya  It is not a "populist rajneeti" move that we see here.  It is her ego which has got hurt. She can go to any length to mend it. "Aam admi" excuse will just be a mean to reach that end.

My salute to Dineshji. There are few politicians like him who can think and act logically -- keeping national priority topmost. There are fewer still who can stand by their own judgement the way he did.

 @Anusuya Datta What can be said about our PM? We knew the Presidential post is like that in India. But now that rigor mortis has spread here too. 

It is a sad day for India. A sadder day for me being a Bengali. 

Amrita Kaur
Amrita Kaur

The resignation of Mr Trivedi shows how strong Mamta Banerjee is as the leader of her party.(I guess she got afraid by the way the budget was presented n she got jealous of Trivedi's English) and the acceptance of resignation by our PM made his image more weak......with 19 MPs ,,,,you can do anything n everything...............

JishnuBhattacharya
JishnuBhattacharya

Populist Rajniti takes its toll- the interest of Nation goes awry.....

Anusuya Datta
Anusuya Datta moderator

I dont understand why our coward, passive, inactive PM suddenly decided to get so active? Love of the chair? Praising a minister in the morning and sacking him at night? Can anyone get worse than Manmohan? He just stooped lower than Mamata today.

aseem
aseem

Great article! is there anyway we can get rid of her? she is even worse than cpm

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