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Corruption Allegations Prompt Senior Indian Minister to Quit


Indian Communications and Information Technology Minister A. Raja gestures while replying to journalists' questions (file photo)

Indian Communications and Information Technology Minister A. Raja gestures while replying to journalists' questions (file photo)

In India, a senior minister in the Congress-led government has quit, because of allegations of corruption in distribution of communication licenses. He is the third official to step down in a week, as the government copes with a series of damaging scandals.

Telecommunication Minister Andimuthu Raja resigned late Sunday, after growing opposition demands that he quit. Those demands were raised after allegations that Raja's ministry allotted licenses for airwaves used to transmit phone calls to mobile phone companies in 2008 at less-than-market prices. Federal auditors estimate that the government lost revenue worth billions of dollars.

India's mobile market is one of the fastest growing in the world. An auction for high speed bandwidth for mobile phone services, this year, raised many times the amount of the 2008 sale.

The minister belongs to the DMK party -- an important coalition partner of the ruling Congress Party. He says his conscience is clear, but he is stepping down to avoid embarrassment to the government and maintain peace in parliament.

On Monday, there was uproar in both houses of parliament, as opposition lawmakers demanded a probe into the corruption
allegations.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party also wants the government to prosecute the minister. Other parties have joined those demands. Brinda Karat is a senior leader of the Communist Party of India Marxist.

"It is the opposition which has been vindicated. And, all we have been saying was motivated only in the best interest of the nation," Karat said.

The telecommunications minister stepped down a week after two other officials of the ruling Congress Party resigned as a result of charges of corruption.

The chief minister of Maharashtra state quit because of his role in allotment of apartments meant for war widows to his relatives, bureaucrats and military officials. The head of the organizing committee of the Commonwealth Games, Suresh Kalmadi, resigned his position in the Congress Party, following allegations of financial irregularities in several projects related to the sporting event.

Political analysts say the series of corruption scandals that have erupted in recent months have seriously embarrassed the Congress Party.

On its part, the government hopes that the resignation of the three senior officials in the space of a week will send a message that it is tackling the issue seriously.

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