India government regains its muscle with reforms

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Jai Prakash, a student at a protest rally in New Delhi, said the economic package showed “politicians are not bothered about the welfare of millions of poor people.”

Banerjee demanded an immediate rollback or she would pull out of the coalition. The government ignored the threat, setting the decisions into law Thursday.

Singh’s new reforms have been compared with his support for a U.S.-Indian nuclear deal that ended the country’s nuclear isolation but nearly brought down his government near the end of his first term in 2008.

That doesn’t look likely, at least for now. Though Singh will preside over a minority government without Trinamool, he maintains the support of two parties outside the coalition.

And it is likely that without the mercurial Banerjee the government might go further, possibly opening up the insurance sector to more outside investment and reducing sugar subsidies for the poor. At the same time, the government has sought to lighten the burden on the poor with a tax cut for cooking gas, and media reports said it planned to release 10 million tons of stored grain into the market to bring down food prices.

Zoya Hasan, a political analyst with New Delhi’s Jawarhalal Nehru University, said she might not agree with what Singh has done, but he has made himself into India’s most influential prime minister since its founding leader, Nehru.

“(He) has brought about a huge change,” she said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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