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Trinamul wins fare cry race

Calcutta, June 23: Trinamul today managed to table a resolution in the Assembly against the railway fare hike, stealing a march over the Opposition parties that had also planned to move a similar motion.

When the Assembly began its business today, leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra raised the demand that the Left be allowed to table a resolution against the fare hike. The Congress’s Asit Mitra followed suit, saying they were also planning a similar motion. Congress MLA Manoj Chakraborty demanded a discussion during Zero Hour.

But Trinamul insisted that as a resolution decrying the hike had already been prepared by the government, the Opposition should support it.

Speaker Biman Banerjee intervened: “As the government has already decided to move a resolution against the railway fare hike, let that be tabled and discussions be held on that.’’

This is the first time in recent memory that the ruling party and the Opposition have been on the same page on any issue.

As Trinamul leaders hit the streets in Calcutta today protesting the fare hike, party chief Mamata Banerjee explained in the House the reasons for tabling the resolution.

“When a new government takes over, some time has to be given to them to perform. But if we find that the common man is being hit by the government from the very first day, we cannot compromise as a political party,” the chief minister said.

During the three-and-a-half-years — one year as part of the NDA regime and the remaining years in the UPA government — as railway minister, Mamata had steered clear of raising passenger fares.

“Now this government is saying that a bitter pill has to be swallowed to run the country. Why didn’t you say this before the elections that some anti-people steps will have to be taken? Is it always necessary to give a dose of the bitter pill? Why not a sweet syrup?’’ she asked in the House today.

Although she was critical of the Centre, Mamata clarified her government did not want a confrontation.

“There’s no question of confrontation. We request them (the Centre) to be polite, soft and people-minded. Please withdraw the hike,’’ she said.

According to sources, the government’s decision to place the motion against the railway fare hike was prompted by the realisation that Trinamul was late in opposing the Centre’s move. The Left has already hit out at the BJP-led government in Delhi by organising protest rallies across the country on Saturday.

CPM leader Mishra said today: “We wanted to move an adjournment motion against the railway fare hike. Our motion was not allowed but the government’s was. It seems the ruling party is the only party in the Assembly.”

A Trinamul leader admitted that the party was late in reacting to the rail fare hike and in no way would have allowed the Left to table the resolution.

“So when the Left wanted to table the resolution, we turned it into an opportunity as we knew that Opposition parties would be bound to support such a resolution. In moving the resolution and taking everyone on board, Mamata has once again proved that Trinamul is concerned about people’s interests,’’ a senior Trinamul minister said in the Assembly lobby today.

The operative part of the resolution, moved by Trinamul and supported by the Left, Congress, SUCI and even the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, a BJP ally, states: “The railway freight and fares have been raised by 6.5 and 14.2 per cent respectively. This will lead to an abnormal rise in the prices of essential commodities. Crores of people across the country will be affected. This hike is unthinkable and unprecedented.’’

Trinamul, at Mamata’s behest, agreed to incorporate an amendment proposed by the Left. As suggested by the leader of Opposition, the penultimate line of the resolution says: “The Centre’s decision is immoral and undemocratic.”