From loyalty to defiance, Trivedi’s journey
The first time Dinesh Trivedi won a seat in Parliament, defeating a CPM heavyweight in Barrackpore in 2009, Mamata Banerejee was ecstasic and showed it. “It is Dineshda’s election,” she roared. “He has made it.” It was indeed a giantkiller’s feat against five-time MP Tarit Topdar in a predominantly industrial belt and CITU stronghold.
The 2009 elections were a watershed in Bengal politics, with Mamata finally turning the tide her way and proving the Left was not invincible. And Barrackpore was a turning point for Trivedi, now Railway Minister but till then a man who had always been on the peripheries of political power. That victory was his launchpad to political prominence.
As expected, Trivedi was made MoS for Health in the UPA-2 government, a reward for his loyalty to Mamata. Three years on, the loyal soldier finds himself cast in the role of a villain, having defied a party diktat.
During those years, what made Trivedi important was that he was Mamata’s face in Delhi, an image boosted by a suave atitude, sophisticated manners and communication skills. He is a commerce graduate with an MBA from University of Texas.
Trivedi’s Gujarati parents had migrated to India from Karachi after Partition and settled in Delhi. The youngest of the family, he attended a prestigious boarding school in Himachal Pradesh and graduated from St Xavier’s College in Kolkata. He also earned a professional pilot’s licence.
In the early 1980s, he was often seen in newspaper offices in Kolkata as well as Delhi, promoting corporating entities informally. Corporate circles say industrialists of the Bajaj Group always backed him, pushing his case before the political establishment.
Trivedi joined the Congress in the 1980s, switched to the Janata Dal in 1990, then joined Mamata in 1998 when she started the Trinamool Congress. He became one of its first general secretaries.
He earned Mamata’s trust with his unflinching loyalty during 2001-2006, one of the worst phases in her political career. In 2001, after having deserted the NDA, Mamata could manage barely 60 Assembly seats but Trivedi was by her side. She nominated him for the Rajya Sabha and he won an election marred by cross-voting controversies.
During Mamata’s historic 26-day fast in December 2006 over the Singur land acquisition, Trivedi was mobilising support for her in Delhi. His efforts saw many Central leaders coming over to Mamata’s side in Kolkata. Among them was V P Singh, often described as Trivedi’s original political guru. That fast unto death was when Mamata saw the first signs of a shift in public support.
In 2011, after Mamata quit as railway minister to become Chief Minister of West Bengal, it was Trivedi who replaced her. Trinamool insiders say he was not the first choice, though. Mukul Roy, general secretary, had been tipped for the post but members of the party’s parliamentary board unofficially voiced their opposition to him. So when a suggestion came from the Prime Minister that a Trinamool leader be allotted the Railway portfolio, Mamata agreed and nominated Trivedi.
Since then, he has had ups and downs. There were strong rumours of an offer he made to resign as a minister in support of Anna Hazare. Again, he pleaded on several occasions for a hike in fares to help modernise the railways. Mamata turned down both suggestions.
Trivedi has always been seen as a politician whose leanings were more right than centre, and one with a pro-reforms outlook. He was also known for his close links to the Congress leadership in Delhi, where his political roots belong. He had also been Mamata’s link to the top NDA leadership including Atal Behari Vajpayee and George Fernandes.
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