Rail budget is House Property, says Pranab

Amid noisy scenes over Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi’s reported resignation, the government maintained in the Lok Sabha on Thursday that he had not resigned and continued to hold the post.

“A communication from Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee has been received, and it is under the active consideration of the Prime Minister,” Finance Minister and Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee said after the Opposition wanted to know the status of Mr. Trivedi and the Railway budget he presented in the House on Wednesday.

The communication from Ms. Banerjee was received late on Wednesday, and “as and when a decision is taken, the House will be informed,” Mr. Mukherjee said, without disclosing its contents.

Trinamool leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said his party had not asked Mr. Trivedi to resign. “The matter has to be settled between my leader [Ms. Banerjee] and the Prime Minister.” The government, he said, “is totally settled and would complete its term.”

As the National Democratic Alliance and Left parties sought a response from the Prime Minister, question hour was disrupted in both Houses, which had to be adjourned briefly.

The BJP and Left leaders described the situation as “unusual and unprecedented,” which showed the government in bad light, and asked the Prime Minister to clarify.

In the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United), Basudeb Acharia of the CPI(M) and Gurudas Dasgupta of the CPI had given notice for suspension of question hour and sought a clarification from the government. But their pleas were disallowed by Speaker Meira Kumar.

“The constitutional position is that the Railway budget is owned by the government. It is approved by the Finance Minister. Cabinet approval is not required. I own the responsibility, and now it is the property of the House,” Mr. Mukherjee said, responding to Ms. Swaraj’s queries.

As the Speaker took up question hour, BJP members trooped in the well, demanding a statement from the Prime Minister. This led to the adjournment of the House till noon.

Earlier, Ms. Swaraj said the country was faced with a constitutional crisis as no sooner had the Railway Minister presented the budget, his party leader asked the Prime Minister to drop him from the Cabinet. “A Parliamentary Affairs Minister has gone missing from the House. Is Dinesh Trivedi still the Railway Minister? What is the status of the Railway budget? The House would like to know the government’s response to this uncertain situation.”

For the first time, a Minister presented the Railway budget and was asked to resign immediately, said Mr. Acharia. “It is also for the first time that Ministers of this government are staging a sit-in against the Minister and his budgetary proposals.”

Mr. Dasgupta backed the Trinamool’s demand for a rollback of the increase in passenger fares. As a citizen, Ms. Banerjee had every right to make the demand. In this episode, he said, the concept of Cabinet responsibility was being targeted.

In the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition demanded a statement from the government, forcing Chairman Hamid Ansari to adjourn the House till noon.

Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley termed the situation “unprecedented.”

Amid the din, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla said: “The Prime Minister has not received any resignation [letter] from the Railway Minister.” He had received only a communication from Ms. Banerjee, and any decision taken would be conveyed to the House.

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