The Congress is reported to have given in to the demand of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to replace Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi with another Trinamool Congress leader and Union Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy.
Angry over the hike in passenger fares proposed by Trivedi in his maiden Railway Budget 2012-13 on Wednesday, Mamata had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to remove her party nominee from the post.
"Yes, I have written to the prime minister seeking his replacement with Mukul Roy, another union minister," Mamata had said.
The action of the West Bengal chief minister came late in the night after Trivedi's stout defence of his proposal for across-the-board increase in rail fares to net Rs 4,000 crore in the Budget.
Throughout the day, the 61-year-old railway minister had maintained that whatever he had done was in the interest of the Railways and the country and that he was not worried out the loss of his job.
FULL COVERAGE:Railway Budget 2012-13
"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)," Trivedi said on Wednesday.
The Trinamool Congress, which has been toeing a populist line on issues like petrol price hike, has also demanded a rollback of the fare hike announced by Trivedi in his Railway Budget speech .
"We (read I) had the portfolio of railways. At that time we had done several developmental works. Today the rail fare has been increased we were not aware of it. Our parliamentary party has already opposed it," Banerjee said in Nandigram in East Midnapore district on Wednesday. She was railway minister from May 2009 till last May, before taking over the state's reins.
"We will not accept the fire hike. We will not allow the fire hike to happen for the sake of the common man... We are totally against it. I can assure you this," Mamata had said.
Mamata's decision has created an unprecedented situaton in the country's parliamentary history when a minister is sought to be removed even before the budget presented by him has been discussed in Parliament.
Should Singh not follow Mamata's dictat, TMC, which is the second largest constituent with 19 MPs in Lok Sabha, may very likely pull out of the government which will increase its dependence on outside supporters like Samajwadi Party and BSP.
Mamata's brinkmanship also presents the prime minister with another acute embarrassment since he had praised Trivedi's budget earlier as "forward-looking".
Sources said the Congress core group, which met at the prime minister's residence late Wednesday, had asked Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to tell Mamata that decision on Trivedi's replacement could be taken after the General Budget's presentation on Friday. Mamata has reportedly agreed and the prime minister has assured her that Mukul Roy would be made the new railway minister after the Union Budget is announced.
- With PTI and IANS inputs