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Indian Leader Makes Concession on Corruption Probe to Break Legislative Deadlock


India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil arrive at the parliament on the first day of the budget session in New Delhi, February 21, 2011

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil arrive at the parliament on the first day of the budget session in New Delhi, February 21, 2011

India's prime minister has made a major concession to political opponents, by agreeing to a joint corruption probe. The move is aimed at breaking a months-long deadlock in parliament and getting legislative action flowing again on crucial economic issues.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told members of parliament India could no longer accept the paralysis that has frozen the legislature since November.

"We can ill-afford a situation where parliament is not allowed to function during the crucial budget session,” said Mr. Singh. “It is in these special circumstances that our government has agreed to the setting of a joint parliamentary committee."

Prime Minister Singh's political opponents, chiefly the Bharatiya Janata Party, have insisted for months a joint parliament committee is necessary to probe allegations of corruption in the 2008 sale of India's 2G mobile phone spectrum. India's former telecommunications minister is suspected of selling the frequencies at below market value, depriving the country's treasury of more than $30 billion.

The 2G scam is one of several scandals fueling accusations by critics of Mr. Singh that he is either unwilling or incapable of controlling corruption in his government.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj welcomed Mr. Singh's decision to permit the joint committee and called on members to set aside confrontational politics.

She says this is not a victory for the opposition or those who are in power. She says she is urging fellow lawmakers to set aside the issue of losing or winning, but bow to allow parliament to function.

It remains unclear to what degree the joint probe may distract from other legislative business in this budget session, scheduled to continue until April. Indian lawmakers hope to examine a number of economic reform measures, including ways to control inflation in food prices.

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