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India's Ruling Congress Party Axes Senior Officials in Corruption Scandals

  • Anjana Pasricha

Maharashtra state Chief Minister Ashok Chavan looks on during a press conference at his residence after submitting his resignation, in Mumbai, India, 9 Nov 2010.

Maharashtra state Chief Minister Ashok Chavan looks on during a press conference at his residence after submitting his resignation, in Mumbai, India, 9 Nov 2010.

India's ruling Congress party axed two senior members embroiled in allegations of corruption.

One of the officials asked to step down Tuesday is the chief minister of Maharashtra state, Ashok Chavan. He leaves in the wake of allegations that his relatives, politicians and bureaucrats and senior military officers acquired apartments in a prime housing project in Mumbai which was meant for war widows of the 1999 conflict between India and Pakistan. The Congress Party announced it was removing party parliament secretary Suresh Kalmadi, who was in charge of the scandal-plagued Commonwealth Games, and the Maharashtra state chief minister at the center of a Mumbai housing scam, 9 Nov 2010.

The Congress Party announced it was removing party parliament secretary Suresh Kalmadi, who was in charge of the scandal-plagued Commonwealth Games, and the Maharashtra state chief minister at the center of a Mumbai housing scam, 9 Nov 2010.

The second to quit his Congress post in is Suresh Kalmadi, the chief organizer of October's Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The event was mired in charges of financial irregularities amounting to millions of dollars, relating to several projects.

Chavan and Kalmadi have denied any wrongdoing.

But the corruption charges continue to dominate media reports and have tarnished the image of the Congress Party-led government.

The resignations of the men implicated in the scandals were announced on Tuesday - the first day parliament convened for its winter session. The head of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, Sushma Swaraj, lost no time in highlighting the issue of corruption.

She says the government seems to be sinking deeper into corruption.

The opposition has been demanding accountability for the series of graft scandals that have been linked to government projects.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee indicates the government is paying heed to such calls. "We went on certain reports, general perceptions. Political decisions, many a time, are taken on perceptions and based on certain facts," Mukherjee said.

Political analyst and professor at Delhi University, Mahesh Rangarajan, says the government needs to do much more to set its house in order and repair the damage.

"This is the beginning, but it will have to be carried further," Rangarajan says, "Only then will it have credibility."

The Congress party was re-elected for a second term last year. It faces a string of regional elections in the coming months and fears that the corruption scandals could adversely impact voters' perceptions.

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