Thursday, March 22, 2012

A tale of two railway ministers -- Dinesh Trivedi, Mukul Roy, a sophisticated Trivedi, a sincere Roy

The little drama -- literally a storm in a tea-cup -- of how Dinesh Trivedi, a businessman turned politician, who speaks English like any urbane middle class person, presented the 2012-13 Railway Budget on March 14, which had the trappings of a market-friendly worldview, and a reply the railway budget on March 22 by Mukul Roy, a businessman turned politician but from a different segment -- small town lower middle class with the familiar panache for pro-poor talk.
The urban middle class loved Trivedi because he was certainly more sophisticated than Roy, and who would be easily at home in a salon, in a soiree and at a garden party in Delhi or other big city. Roy would be much more at home in a Bangla-speaking lower middle class crowd, who would possibly know his Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam. Quite possibly, Roy would be seen as an unpleasant street bully by his well-heeled critics.
There was a bit of pleasant political affectation in Trivedi's budget speech, a mix of cunning and sophistication. But Trivedi's railway budget speech did not sound sincere. It can be said that there is no need to sound sincere as long as what was said made sense. Roy's railway budget reply sounded sincere and there was even a sense of humility. Trivedi displayed a sense of arrogance through his ostensibly polite turn of speech.
Roy made an effort to read his speech on Thursday, and he was nudged by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, by minister of state for parliamentary affairs Pawan Bansal and even a staff member at the table of the Lok Sabha. After the speech ended, and the railway budget was passed, Roy went around and shook hands with members of other parties, and he saluted with folded hands BJP leaders L.K.Advani and Sushma Swaraj.
Roy emerges a sure-footed politician more than even Trivedi of pleasant speech. Roy is the more authentic Indian politician. Trivedi too is a typical Indian politician, but a little vain and a little out of touch with the common people. Quite possibly Trivedi will be of greater use to ordinary people travelling in Indian trains, more than even the sincere Roy, and Roy himself would be the first to admit it. What failed Trivedi was not the fact that he was not intelligent but that he lacked political sense.
Politicians come in different stripes and it will always be so. There is no contradiction between Trivedi and Roy. Indian politics will have a place for both of them.
Trivedi was in a way taking a shot at Trinamool Congress(TMC) president Mamata Banerjee, who is the most imperfect politician, and what he thought was her lack of sophistication. Banerjee hit back with the fury of a proud person who would not tolerate insult. Trivedi thought that he could insult Banerjee without she even being aware of it. He thought wrong. Roy knows better. He would remain loyal to Banerjee for both political and personal reasons. And he would leave her if the need arose for personal and political reasons. Trivedi was not keen to leave Banerjee. He just thought of showing her her place. She showed him his place.
Indian railways needs to be managed better than what Trivedi and Roy, Banerjee and Lalu Yadav, can ever hope to do. Each one of them played their own little political games with the Indian railways. Indian railways will survive their games, and would even benefit from their games.

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