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Asia

'Coalgate' scandal a hard blow to Indian government

India's opposition parties, which have blocked parliamentary proceedings in protest against a coal allocation scandal, have demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh step down from his post.

Proceedings of India's lower and upper houses of parliament were adjourned for the third consecutive day on Thursday after opposition parties insisted that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh resign over a coal mining scandal involving the allocation of coal blocks to private companies.

India's state auditor, the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG), last week said that the lack of transparency in the distribution of coal blocks to private companies had cost billions of dollars to the exchequer since March last year. However, the CAG report did not directly blame Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but said that the allocations had been made between 2005 to 2009, when Manmohan Singh was in charge of the energy ministry.

The scandal is a new development in a string of corruption scandals to hit Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government in the past two years.

The 'Coalgate' scandal

India's lower house of parliament, Lok Sabha, in New Delhi

No major party in parliament is ready for early elections, say observers

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called the 'Coalgate' scandal the "mother of all scams."

"It is not a usual scandal. We want answers from the Prime Minister," BJP leader Sushma Swaraj told DW.

She said the second tenure of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had been full of scams.

"This time even the Prime Minister is involved. He was in charge of the whole deal," Swaraj said.

Demand for early elections

"The BJP has said that it would like to have early elections. It wants to cash in on the people's sentiments against various corruption scams involving the government," political expert Sudha Pai told DW, adding that the BJP might not be able to convert it into an electoral success because "its own house is not in order."

On his part, economist Pradeep Kapoor told DW that the Manmohan Singh government had totally failed in serving the poor.

Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj

The Hindu nationalist BJP wants PM Singh to step down

" Inflation and price hikes have badly affected the lives of the poor Indians, who had voted this government into power. It is not a government for common people, it is for the rich," Kapoor said.

Storm in a teacup?

Despite the political hullaballoo, the UPA government said it was confident that the storm would subside soon and its allies in parliament would support it in the hour of crisis.

"They (the opposition parties) are shying away from real debates. The government hasn't done anything wrong. The coal allocation was done in the best interest of the nation," said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.

Political observers were of the opinion that none of the major political parties, including the opposition parties, were ready for an early election, and blocking parliamentary sessions was just a political gimmick for the BJP.

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