Fresh blow to UPA govt as railways minister resigns
KOLKATA INDIA’S Railways Minister resigned on Sunday in a row over his proposed fare hikes, piling more pressure on a coalition government seen as incapable of pushing through difficult reforms.
Dinesh Trivedi sent his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the behest of his own Trinamool Congress Party, a powerful regional grouping and a key coalition partner, Trinamool spokesman Ratan Mukherjee told AFP.
Trivedi’s announcement on Wednesday of the first rail fare hike in eight years had been greeted with fury by other Trinamool leaders who demanded the immediate withdrawal of the proposals.
After standing his ground for five days, Trivedi said he had finally decided to stand down at the request of Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee.
“She told me it was her party’s decision that I must quit,” he said.
The move will fuel criticism of what is seen as an increasingly dysfunctional coalition, and raise further questions over Singh’s ability to control fractious allies in the government led by his Congress Party.
Most observers see no immediate prospect of the coalition breaking up, but the row over the fare hikes is the latest in a string of embarrassing internal policy disputes that has hamstrung the government’s reform programme.
Already battered by graft scandals, the government has been under heavy financial market pressure to curb public spending and rein in the ballooning deficit at the same time as spurring slowing growth.
In his budget speech on Friday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee steered clear of contentious “big bang” announcements in what analysts saw as a deliberate move to avoid upsetting hostile coalition allies.
The government had ambitious plans when it was reelected in 2009 for reforms, such as opening up key sectors of the economy to foreign firms, overhauling pension, insurance and tax systems, and bringing in new land acquisition laws.
But a series of high-profile policy reversals and a drubbing in recent state polls have led many to suggest that it has lost the will to push through tough reform before a general election due in 2014.