Upset over the Opposition’s outcry over Monday’s mishap, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee may advance her plans of quitting. Party sources said Banerjee might hasten her exit plans to concentrate full time on Bengal politics ahead of the May 2011 assembly polls.
Stung by remarks by CPI(M), RJD, LJP and the BJP that she choose either ‘Bengal or Railways’, Banerjee was pushed to reconsider her decision to wait till November-December to quit.
But by evening, she had not made up her mind on what she should do. The message from the Centre was that her offer to quit would not be entertained at this juncture just as Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel’s offer to quit wasn’t accepted after the Mangalore air crash.
Banerjee conveyed to her party leaders she did not want to stick on to her chair in the face of the Opposition’s attack. But her party leaders told her she must not act in haste.
Party sources said Banerjee was concerned that following the mishap, the Left had got another opportunity to corner her during the monsoon session of Parliament next week. She didn’t want the UPA government to face the brunt of attack because of her, sources said.
Banerjee was earlier planning to quit by the year-end to give herself a few months’ time to concentrate on her mega battle against the Left.
Her party cadres who are preparing for the July 21 martyrs rally, were dampened by the news of the mishap. Banerjee has invited Mukherjee and other Congress leaders to share the dais.
The Congress, on its part, wants Mamata Banerjee to hand over the portfolio to her party colleague if she wants to devote her time towards preparing for the assembly elections.
The party is worried that frequent train accidents would not only affect its image but of the UPA government as well.
“… Any decision has to be taken by Banerjee herself,” a senior party functionary said.
Officially too, the Congress asked Banerjee to get her act together. “It is an unfortunate and sad incident. Those who work in the Railways should ensure that such accidents are not repeated,” party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee dismissed suggestions that Banerjee’s absence from her Ministry was the reason for recurrence of train accidents.
(With inputs from Aurangzeb Naqshbandi)