Six members of the Indian cabinet have tendered their resignations to protest against a series of economic reforms that have recently been presented by the government.
The members of the regional Trinamool party were unsatisfied with the administration's decision to allow foreign investors to participate in the retail sector.
Despite the departures, which saw the Trinamool parliamentarians switch to the opposition, the coalition government of Prime Minster Manmohan Singh was likely to continue as a minority government. The regional Samajwadi Party of Uttar Pradesh has said it would back the coalition, which is led by the United Progressive Alliance, even though it would not become a formal member.
Samajwadi also opposes the administration's move to allow foreign firms to take stakes of up to 51 percent in local retail stores. The party's supporters were among those to take part in protests on Thursday (pictured above).
"I am not in the UPA, but am supporting it so that communal forces do not come to power," said the party's leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, in reference to the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Small shopkeepers, traders, laborers and opposition activists blocked roads and railways across India on Thursday, part of a nationwide strike against a host of government reforms that aim to boost the country's flagging economy.
Prime Minister Singh announced the controversial reforms last week, which would allow the world's three largest retailers - Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco - to invest in India's supermarket sector. The reforms would also allow foreign investment in aviation and the sale of minority stakes in four state-run companies.
mz/rc (dpa, AFP)