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Opposition Launches Anti-Corruption Protests in India

Supporters of India's main opposition National Democratic Alliance protest in the capital, New Delhi, Dec. 22, 2010.

Thousands of opposition-alliance protesters rallied in the streets of India's capital Wednesday, launching a series of nationwide protests against alleged government corruption.

The Bharatiya Janata Party started a two-month campaign of protests to highlight a slew of corruption cases that have hit the administration of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, including a multi-billion dollar telecom scandal.

The BJP is calling for a cross-party probe into the sale of cell phone licenses that may have cost the government nearly $40 billion and forced the resignation of telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja, an important figure in the Congress-led ruling coalition. The latest session of parliament has been stalled by opposition demands for an inquiry.

A BJP leader, Arun Jaitley, called for Mr. Singh to order an investigation into the case or to resign on "moral grounds." Jaitley said the government cannot function in an "atmosphere of suspicion."

On Monday, Mr. Singh said he would be willing to be questioned by a parliamentary committee and that he "has nothing to hide." The prime minister has repeatedly refused a probe, saying other inquiries into the allegations are sufficient.

Opposition leaders hope to sustain the momentum of their anti-corruption campaign to disrupt parliament's budget session in February.

Leaders of Mr. Singh's ruling Congress party have also been accused of corruption during the Commonwealth Games and of taking prime property in India's financial capital, Mumbai.

Demonstrators wore garlands of onions while protesting Wednesday, highlighting the government's latest crisis, the swelling price of onions, a key ingredient in Indian dishes.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.