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Trinamool Congress Ministers submit resignations to PM

NEW DELHI: The Trinamool Congress on Friday afternoon formally snapped its ties with the UPA government as its ministers handed over their resignations to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The six Trinamool ministers led by Mukul roy reached 7RCR to meet the Prime Minister and submit their resignations.

While Roy is a Cabinet minister, Saugata Ray, Sisir Adhikari, Mohan Jatua, Sultan Ahmed and Sudip Bandopadhyay are Ministers of State.

Immediately after their meeting with the PM, the ministers will proceed to Rashtrapati Bhawan to hand over a letter withdrawing support to the UPA to President Pranab Mukherjee.

Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Mukul Roy said the Trinamool Congress will launch nationwide protests against FDI in retail.

Roy dubbed the government decisions as anti-people and said the Trinamool Congress cannot support it.

On Wednesday, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee had announced her decision to withdraw support to the UPA protesting the Centre's decisions to hike diesel prices, withdraw subsidy on cooking gas and allow FDI in multi-brand retail. — PTI




Mulayam pledges support to UPA

NEW DELHI: The Samajwadi Party (SP) on Friday pledged to continue support to the UPA Government at the Centre as it “does not want to let communal forces to come to power.”

“Our support is clear. We will not let communal forces come to power. That is why I am supporting. I am not in the UPA. But we are supporting, so that communal forces do not go ahead,” Mulayam Singh Yadav told reporters.

Yadav’s statement has come as a big relief to the UPA, whose numbers in the Lok Sabha came down from 273 to 254 after the Trinamool decided to withdraw its support.

With the outside support of SP (22) and BSP (21), the coalition will continue to have the backing of over 300 MPs in the 545-member Lok Sabha. For a simple majority, government needs the support of at least 273 MPs.

Answering a question on whether the SP will be withdrawing support to the UPA,  Yadav said, “Why will we take the support back? We have to keep communal forces away from power. But we are not in the UPA.”

His remarks came a day after he shared dais with leaders of Left, JD(S), BJD and TDP at an anti-government protest during a nationwide bandh against FDI in retail and hike in diesel prices. However, he refused to share the stage with BJP leaders at a nearby protest venue where Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and A. B. Bardhan were also present.

Asked if he was in favour of mid-term elections, Yadav shot back, “where is the question of mid-term polls? Ask the Congress about this, what they want and whether they want it or (they want to) run the government.”

Asked about the government’s notification of FDI in multi-brand retail soon after the protests, he said his job was to inform people and his party was not with the UPA on this. “We will keep opposing FDI and diesel price hike. We will oppose this in the Lok Sabha also as it will hurt five crore people in the country,” he said.

Yadav said it was “meaningless talk” when asked whether his party will join the Central government.

To a question on when his party would take a final decision on the issue of support, he said their meetings keep happening and they kept discussing national issues. “We take decisions and follow it. We are already supporting the UPA,” he said.

When pointed out that a senior CPI(M) leader has suggested that he lead the Third Front, he said such a front will be formed only after next elections. He said the leader of such a front would be decided later. — PTI




Manmohan to address the nation on FDI

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the nation on Friday night to explain the government’s recent decisions on economic reforms which have triggered widespread political protests across the country.

The Prime Minister will address the nation at 8 p.m. on Doordarshan about the recent decisions on economic reforms, officials said.

Singh is expected to spell out the reasons that prompted the government to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, hike in diesel prices and put a cap on subsidy on LPG cylinders.

He is likely to cite the difficult times facing the economy and emphasise that the steps were taken to push economic growth and generate employment.

The thrust of the Prime Minister’s message is expected to be that the decisions were taken in national interest.

After the Cabinet decision on September 14, 2012 Singh had said the step was intended to “bolster economic growth and make India a more attractive destination” for foreign investment.

“I believe that these steps will help strengthen our growth process and generate employment in these difficult times,” he had said and sought support of “all segments of public opinion” for this.

The decision to go ahead with FDI in multi-brand retail has evoked angry reactions from Trinamool Congress which has decided to quit the UPA government.

UPA’s outside allies like the Samajwadi Party and the JD(S) as well as opposition parties are also agitated over the decision and had organised a nationwide bandh on Thursday. — PTI




Duty on non-subsidised LPG cylinders abolished 

NEW DELHI: In marginal relief to consumers, the government on Friday abolished import and excise duties on LPG cylinders they buy beyond the 6 per annum quota of subsidised cooking gas, and asked state governments to subsidise the requirements of households at their level. 

The government had last week restricted supply of subsidised cooking gas to six per household in a year. Any requirement beyond this was to be purchased at market price, which currently works out to Rs 895 per 14.2-kg cylinder. After the abolishing of 5% customs duty and 8% excise duty, the consumer price in Delhi would come to Rs 798.

Subsidised cooking gas (LPG) in Delhi is currently sold at Rs 399 a cylinder.

"Since some LPG cylinders will not be subsidised, we have amended the notification for the non-subsidised household LPG cylinders... customs and excise (on them) will be zero", Chidambaram told reporters.

Non-subsidised commercial LPG cylinders, however, would continue to attract customs duty of 5% and excise duty at 8%.

Taking a cue from the Congress-ruled states, which have increased the number of subsidised cylinders to nine per year, Chidambaram asked other states to follow suit.

"I welcome the decision of certain state governments to subsidise three cylinders per year of LPG in addition to six cylinders for which the subsidy would be borne by the central government...I would commend all state governments to adopt such an approach", he said.

Chidambaram also welcomed the decision of the Bihar government to reduce VAT on diesel from 18% to 16% which would neutralise some of the impact of the Rs 5 price hike announced by the Centre last week. — PTI




Yeddyurappa hints at leaving BJP

BANGALORE: Upset at being neglected by the top brass after his ouster as Chief Minister, Karnataka BJP strongman B.S. Yeddyurappa on Friday dropped clear hints of leaving the party, saying he was facing a ‘suffocating environment’ in it.

“I am facing a suffocating environment in the party. I am waiting for an opportune time to decide my future. I will take a decision on completing my ongoing second leg of tour in parts of the state by December end,” he told reporters here.

Yeddyurappa, who is unlikely to attend the BJP National Executive in Haryana from December 27, said he would take a decision on his future plans in December.

He defended the delay in announcing a decision on his political future, saying any decision at this stage would rock the government headed by Jagadish Shettar, whom he installed as Chief Minister.

Yeddyurappa said he does not aspire for any position in the party or that of state unit president. “I have asked my supporters not to lobby with the high command for any position for me. I will not accept the state unit party post, even if the party offers it to me,” he said.

“If at all I have to become Chief Minister again, I will become with the blessings of the people,” Yeddyurappa, who was forced to quit in July last year after a Lokayukta report on illegal mining indicted him, said.

“In fact after I quit, I have been working as a ruling party member and also as opposition party member. It is my hard stand that ensured waiver of Rs 3,200-crore loans to farmers. It is on my call the KSRTC strike ended and the government found a solution to the garbage problem in the city,” Yeddyurappa, who announced plans to tour 50 constituencies in the coming days, said.

He reminded party bosses of his efforts in the last 40 years to build the BJP in the state from a strength of two MLAs to 121 and said he had played a pivotal role in installing the first-ever saffron party government in the South.

He took a jibe at Deputy Chief Minister K.S. Eswarappa, who is also continuing as state unit party chief, saying he has the onus to bring back the party to power. “He should quit the ministry and devote his energy to strengthening the party.”

On the Cauvery issue, he slammed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for directing Karnataka at the Cauvery River Water Authority meet in Delhi to release 9,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu.

He alleged that Dr. Singh had done so to please Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to save his ‘minority government’ by securing AIADMK’s support. — PTI




Reliance Communications raises call rates
by 25%, others may follow suit

NEW DELHI: Reliance Communications, India's third-biggest mobile phone carrier, raised call prices by a quarter in four service zones and said it will extend the hike to all zones in the next 30 days, sending its shares to a two-month high.

Reliance Communications increased the base call price to 1.5 paisa a second from 1.2 paisa, the company said in a statement on Friday, citing rising costs and lower competition.

A court order to revoke permits of several smaller rivals will significantly reduce competition in the cut-throat Indian market, giving operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone's local unit room to raise call prices.

"We have seen on ground competition tapering off. Hence we need to restore back the price," Gurdeep Singh, chief executive of Reliance Communications' mobile business, told Reuters.

"From our experience in the four zones where we have implemented it already, this is very much sustainable. We see another round of tariff hike in the next one year," Singh said in a phone interview.

Voice calls account for about 85 percent of Indian telecoms sector's revenue. A vicious price war in a market that once boasted 15 operators had led to sharp drops in call prices in 2009-10.

Shares in Reliance Communications were trading 3.7 percent higher at 59.60 rupees in Mumbai at 0707 GMT. The stock earlier rose to 60.20 rupees, its highest level since July 24.

Bigger rival Bharti jumped 3.5 percent and Idea Cellular was up 1.7 percent on speculation that other telecom companies will follow Reliance Communications' move.

Reliance Communications said the call price increase would help improve revenue and margin per user.

The company, burdened with net debt of $6.4 billion, has underperformed major rivals in operating performance.

An analyst said he did not expect the price increase to immediately translate to higher revenue per minute and that it was early to say if its rivals would follow suit.

"In past attempts, we have noticed that telecom companies have found it extremely difficult to enforce market discipline with respect to pricing," said Vivekanand Subbaraman, telecoms analyst at MF Global Sify Securities in Mumbai.

All major carriers increased call prices by about 20 percent in the middle of last year - the first tariff hike after two years. Companies including market leader Bharti were later forced to pare the increase in some zones as they lost customers to rivals offering lower prices. — Reuters




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