Indian politics has always been viewed as a political theatre by observers and political scientists. Hence, the bizarre political circus surrounding the Railway Budget fiasco showed absolutely no sign of ending peacefully. Mamata Banerjee may have been rapped on her knuckles for failing to see reason in the rationalization of fares, but that does not deter her from flaunting her power as the largest party with 19 members in coalition with the UPA in Delhi. The changing relationship with the UPA government highlight the brazen attempts to destabilize the government at the central level.
Dinesh Trivedi presented his maiden rail budget on the floor of the Lok Sabha on March 14 2012. In his immensely bold speech, Mr. Trivedi proposed an across-the-board fare hike in passenger fares to a raise a much-needed Rs. 4000/- crore this year. It is a known fact that a fare hike was inevitable considering the financial health of the Railways. For nearly a decade, a national asset like the Indian Railways was forced to break even with rising expenditures, dangerously high operating ratios and plummeting incomes. Rising above the myopic and populist views held by his predecessors, Dinesh Trivedi showed us that his responsibility as the Union Minister for Railways was to restore the financial health of the Railways and then to his party.
The bullying tactics employed by Mamata Banerjee highlight the absolute shamelessness of politicians and successive railway ministers who treat a national asset like the Indian Railways as a personal territory to ensure a specialized vote-buying machine to dispense favour to their respective home-states. Hence, it is not uncommon to note that most of the politicians who served as the Minister of Railways went on to become Chief Ministers and that the Railways has been treated as a stepping stone to becoming the Chief Minister.
Being an aam aadmi does not mean a free right to subsidies, unwarranted discounts and silly freebies and certainly not the expense of a national asset like the Indian Railways. With Mamata Banerjee opposing the fare hike, what we see is an opposition for the prioritization of the nation over party. The Rail Budget fiasco has proved that it is hard to push for reforms except if it is done through back door ploys. Though, it still remains a mystery as to how Mamata Banerjee would not be aware of the fare hike if Dinesh Trivedi has to mention her name nearly eight times in the one hour fifty minute speech?
The Trinamool Congress has always been known for populism. The stand adopted by the TMC proves that party interest takes precedence over national interest. Trinamool leaders unfortunately take populism to such ridiculous levels that an anti-progress mentality does not even seem offensive. The Railway Minister's boss in Delhi is the Prime Minister and not the Chief Minister of West Bengal. To get her approval is as ridiculous as a West Bengal budget being approved by a Central minister.
However important an ally the Trinamool Congress may be in terms of number for the UPA government in Delhi--one can only hope--that they realize the dangers of having self-serving allies who value parties above the nation. As for Mr. Trivedi, we must applaud not only his courage for presenting a bold budget which provides a roadmap ahead for India and not West Bengal. We certainly need to value his contribution for showing us that it is more important to do what is right than what is easy.