Indian opposition urges PM to resign

Tue, Sep 4, 2012, 01:00

INDIA’S PARLIAMENT adjourned for the ninth time yesterday, following protests by the opposition over a $34 billion alleged corruption scandal involving coal mining contracts.

The main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants prime minister Manmohan Singh to resign. There are allegations by the national auditor that his Congress Party-led federal government forfeited vast revenues by giving away, instead of auctioning, some 165 lucrative coal blocks from 2005 to 2009.

Mr Singh, who was acting coal minister during most of this period, denies wrongdoing and has refused to quit.

Each day since August 21st, BJP MPs create trouble in parliament and force the two speakers to adjourn both houses for the day.

The debate moves to the political party offices and television studios where senior functionaries trade abuse and allegations in the scandal dubbed “Coalgate”.

Trouble erupted after the comptroller and auditor general’s report, tabled in parliament last month, concluded that coal mining rights were handed out in a process that “lacked transparency and objectivity”. This was said to have caused a huge loss to the exchequer.

The BJP demanded Mr Singh’s resignation and began disrupting parliament, claiming that obstructionism was the only way to deal with the prime minister’s corruption-riddled administration.

In the summer session of parliament, which ends on September 8th, some 30 important Bills were listed but only four have been cleared. Parliament is on course for a new record in sitting for the fewest days.

On Sunday, however, the BJP declared that if the government cancelled the coal mining licences and ordered an “independent and fair probe” then they could begin discussion in parliament. But the government has rejected the offer.

Analysts said this standoff augurs severe political chaos for India, as general elections loom in early 2014. Some anticipate polls earlier. The report is the latest financial scandal to rock Mr Singh’s government and trigger widespread public anger.