Kolkata: Minutes after 70-year-old Dinesh Trivedi, the former railways minister and senior Trinamool MP in the Rajya Sabha, announced his resignation from the upper house of Parliament, speculation over his alleged allegiance to the BJP began doing the rounds.
Sources in the Trinamool Congress (TMC) conceded that Trivedi’s speech of being “suffocated” came as a shock that the party “never saw coming”. This, they added, despite the TMC having now built a mechanism to “track and pre-empt defections if any”.
Top leaders dispute Trivedi’s assertions of being suffocated, saying they never received any request from him for “negotiations”.
“We did not see this coming. The method he took is really unprecedented,” Trinamool Lok Sabha MP Sougata Roy told ThePrint.
“We took the same flight to Delhi Sunday. We spoke for such a long time; he did not express his concerns to me. But I got information that he met a very senior Opposition leader yesterday in Delhi. The leader he met is not from the BJP.”
Another top Trinamool leader, requesting anonymity, said Trivedi had refused to slam Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Over the past three months, the party had tried many times to make him speak on national issues and against the present dispensation. But he clearly refused to speak against Modi,” the TMC leader said.
“Arjun Singh (now in the BJP), who defeated him in Barrackpore in 2019, has been the only reason for his differences with the party and primarily with Mamata Banerjee,” the leader added. “But in 2019, Didi chose him over Arjun. Eventually, we lost the seat. We knew that he was maintaining contacts with Modi and Shah, and we warned Didi. But she trusted him.”
Arjun Singh, now the BJP MP from Barrackpore, however, told The Print that he got hints from Trivedi about the latter joining the BJP soon.
“I was perhaps the first person to congratulate him. He is my bada bhai (big brother),” Singh said. “We had some differences when we were in Trinamool but those differences were created by others. Anyone who has a little self-respect will feel suffocated in Trinamool. My political rival is Mamata Banerjee and we will defeat her together.”
ThePrint reached Trivedi Friday over telephone and through text messages, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
However, last month, he had told ThePrint, “I joined Trinamool seeing Mamata Banerjee. I have never questioned her honesty and integrity but I cannot say the same for the leaders who nowadays flock around.”
Trivedi had then conceded that he was uncomfortable in the party with its “appeasement policies, instances of corruption, complaints of extortion and above all incidences of violence”.
On Friday, he told reporters outside Parliament: “There is no democracy in the party and no platform to speak. The party is functioning under a corporate.”
A ‘misfit’ in TMC
Trivedi, a graduate from the University of Texas, has always been a “misfit” in the party, said senior political analyst Biswanath Chakrabarti.
“He was the last gentleman in Trinamool. Going by his background, qualification and culture, he was really misfit in the party,” Chakrabarti said. “He was mismatched with the political ideas of Trinamool. This will hurt Trinamool’s image for sure.”
One of Trivedi’s close associates told ThePrint that in the party’s internal meetings, the leader had raised issues of being “controlled” by a corporation (read Prashant Kishor’s IPAC).
The associate added that Trivedi rued the way in which the Trinamool’s poll strategist had taken over social media accounts of senior party leaders and controlled every political decision.
He was unhappy with the ways the party was functioning in rural areas and how some “infamous leaders” became the face of the party, the close associate added.
Another source in the TMC said that Trivedi felt that a group of “senior MPs” had been “hatching a conspiracy” against him and trying to keep him away from Mamata Banerjee.
Sources said that on several occasions, Trivedi told his close circles that he was being “humiliated” in the party ever since his tenure as the railways minister ended unceremoniously in 2012.
Another party leader close to him said Trivedi had been vocal on several internal issues in the party and that every time he raised his voice, he suffered a ‘cut’ in rank and position.
Up and down ties with Mamata
Trivedi’s relationship with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hasn’t always been rosy ever since his stint as railways minister that began in 2011.
Miffed over Trivedi announcing a passenger fare hike in the railway budget, Banerjee wrote to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to replace him with another Trinamool leader, Mukul Roy.
She had then fielded him in Barrackpore during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He won.
But a year later, he termed PM Modi, as “a man with vision’ while addressing a programme in Gujarat, sharing the stage with Modi’s brother.
Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he wrote several letters to the chief minister accusing Arjun Singh of “corruption and extortion” but no action was taken on them.
But Mamata fielded Trivedi from Barrackpore after denying a ticket to Singh, who then joined the BJP. Singh beat Trivedi in the elections.
In July, 2019, the chief minister offered Trivedi the post of the chairman in Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) office, but he refused.
Last year, he was nominated as Trinamool’s Rajya Sabha member. A third party leader said that since then, Trivedi tried to reach out to the chief minister on several occasions but was “blocked” by other leaders.
The Trinamool is also shocked by the manner of Trivedi’s resignation. A senior party Rajya Sabha MP said that the Trinamool’s chief whip in Rajya Sabha, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy, did not sanction Trivedi time to respond to the budget.
“He used the party’s time illegally,” said the senior RS MP. “We may take action or move a legal motion in the Parliament against such misbehaviour.”
Senior Trinamool minister Subrata Mukherjee said the manner of Trivedi’s resignation was unprecedented. “In my 40-year political career, I have never seen something like this happening ever. He did not send an official resignation but defamed the party on the floor of the house,” Mukherjee said.
“If there is no democracy, what has he been doing in the party for so many years? He was never a grassroots leader and had no connection with people. It will not affect the party.”
BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, meanwhile, told reporters in Kolkata that Trivedi was welcome to join the party. “He took so much time to make this decision. Last year, when we met at the airport, he told me how difficult it was for him to remain a part of Trinamool,” Vijayvargiya, who is also the party’s West Bengal in-charge, said. “Since he has already taken a decision, he is welcome to our party.”
Trinamool sources claimed that Trivedi may get a nomination for one of the two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat, byelections for which are due on 1 March.