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Indian Railways Minister resigns

(Xinhua)

08:56, March 20, 2012

NEW DELHI, March 19 (Xinhua) -- India's Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi resigned Sunday night, succumbing to pressure from his Trinamul Congress party, a key ally of the central government, which protested against his decision to increase passenger fares last week, sources said on Monday.

"The Railway Minister has forwarded his resignation to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ending days of stalemate over the issue of his resignation from the Indian Cabinet. He was forced to go after he refused to obey his party's dictat to roll back the hike in passenger fares," the sources said.

Trivedi also called up his party chief Mamata Banerjee and conveyed his decision when the latter was about to board a flight to the Indian capital amid speculation that the Trinamool Congress could pull out of the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition if the Prime Minister did not sack the railway minister.

"Yes, he (Trivedi) has called me up. He told me that he'll abide by the party decision and will send his resignation. He also told me that he will stay with the party," Banerjee told the media before boarding her flight to the national capital.

India's state-owned railway network operates nearly 7,000 passenger trains and carries some 13 million passengers daily.

Trivedi had raised train fares in Wednesday's railway budget by a maximum of 30 paisa (0.006 U.S. dollars) per km, saying the network was passing through a "difficult phase" and the hike in fares was needed.

However, within hours of the announcement, the chief of the Trinamul Congress party rejected the increase and sought the resignation of the Minister. She even wrote to the Prime Minister recommending Trivedi be replaced as railway minister by another party leader, Mukul Roy.

Trivedi had till Sunday afternoon refused to step down, saying he would do so only if Banerjee gave him a written order to quit.

Speculation was rife in political circles that if the Indian Prime Minister did not sack Trivedi, then the Trinamool might pull out of the UPA coalition with its 19 Members of Parliament.

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