India’s ruling Congress party has been hit by a damaging series of corruption scandals over the past year. The opposition has made regular calls for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resign, only adding to the difficulties of a politician once seen as India’s most honest.

 

 

 

 

BBC news considers the major graft controversies to have beset the government in its second term of office.

WIKILEAKS: ‘CASH FOR VOTES’

Anti-corruption protest in Jammu in February 2011
There have been protests against the perceived rising tide of sleaze

There was uproar in India’s parliament after aleaked cable from the whistle-blowing Wikileaks website described how a senior Congress aide showed a US embassy official “chests of cash” allegedly used to bribe MPs to support the government in a crucial vote of confidence in 2008.

The vote was over a controversial deal between India and the US which paved the way for India to massively expand its nuclear power capability. The government’s left-wing allies withdrew support, but Congress narrowly survived the vote. Opposition parties at the time accused the government of offering cash for votes.

The Congress party and all of those named in the cable deny the allegations.

The leak came just days after a new report by consultancy KPMG said that corruption threatened India’s growth. It said that it wasn’t simply the daily diet of petty bribes that hold back the economy, but the huge scams where billions of dollars are allegedly siphoned off by government and industry.

ANTI-CORRUPTION CHIEF FORCED OUT

In early March the head of India’s anti-corruption watchdog, PJ Thomas, was forced to resign by the Supreme Court on the grounds that he himself faces corruption charges.

The decision was an embarrassment for Manmohan Singh because he chaired the committee that cleared his appointment and publicly supported him.

Mr Thomas says the charges – which are 20 years old – are baseless. He has never been arrested and the charges have also never been tested by a judge in court.

TELECOMS MIS-SELLING

A Raja
Mr Raja denies having undersold licences to mobile phone firms

In February, Telecommunications Minister Andimuthu Raja was arrested and accused of selling mobile phone frequency licences for a fraction of their value, in what some analysts are calling India’s biggest ever scandal.

Auditors estimate the alleged mis-selling of the licences cost the exchequer nearly $40bn (£24.5bn) in lost revenue. Mr Raja is accused of issuing the frequency licences on a “first-come, first-served” basis instead of auctioning them.

He denies all the charges.

The net of police investigators has been cast wide and they have questioned business leaders, TV bosses and political figures in connection with the alleged scam.

In February the government was forced to cave in to opposition demands to hold a cross-party probe into the telecoms scandal, which he announced in parliament.

The crisis took a tragic turn when a former aide of Mr Raja, who owned a real estate company, committed suicide.

MAHARASHTRA WIDOWS

In November 2010 Ashok Chavan, the chief minister of Maharashtra, once of India’s most prosperous states, was forced to quit over his alleged role in a scam involving homes for war widows.

Retired senior army officers and relatives of senior politicians are accused of helping themselves to apartments meant for war widows in Mumbai.

Mr Chavan denies any wrongdoing.

COMMONWEALTH GAMES

Delhi Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in October 2010
Suresh Kalmadi and another chief were booed during the Games’s opening and closing ceremonies

India’s Commonwealth Games was beset by more than poor organisation: police arrested various Games officials for alleged financial irregularities.

The build-up to the event was overshadowed by revelations of sleaze, incompetence and missed construction deadlines

And in January, yet another Congress party head rolled when Suresh Kalmadi, the Games organising committee chief, was removed from this post.

He has been under investigation over claims of corruption and denies any wrongdoing.

Via BBC News

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