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Asia

Governed by graft - Indian politics stuck in deadlock

For days now, Indian parliament has been in a deadlock, with the opposition demanding the resignation of the country's prime minister over the government's latest 'coalgate' scandal.

The deadlock in India's parliament started on August 21 after a report was released by the country's official auditor, citing a "lack of transparency and objectivity" in the distribution of mining rights.

Parliament was adjourned again on Monday due to protests over the so-called "coalgate" scandal led by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

According to the report, the Indian government sold off coalfields to private companies at extremely low giveaway prices instead of auctioning them off to the highest bidder, causing the state to miss out on over 30 billion US dollars. The Hindu nationalist BJP has spoken of "crony capitalism" and demanded the resignation of Manmohan Singh.

"If the prime minister is serious about holding up accountability when wrongdoings have taken place, he must take the logical conclusion and the moral responsibility and resign," said BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The BJP has also called for an independent investigation into the affair.

'Let the people decide'

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was prevented by an onslaught of boos and distraction from commenting on the matter before parliament. Instead, the 79-year-old head of government spoke outside to journalists:

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the media after he was shouted down by opposition politicians in the lower house of Parliament in New Delhi, 27 August 2012. Photo: EPA/STR dpa - Bildfunk

Manmohan Singh was prevented from addressing parliament about 'coalgate'

"I'm sorry that the house is not allowed to function and the BJP is determined to disrupt the normal functioning of parliament. I wish to assure the country that we have a very strong and credible case. The observations … are disputable and they will be challenged when the matter comes to court ... So once again, I appeal to the opposition to come back to the house, we'll debate all these issues and let the country judge where the truth lies."

Though the prime minister is seen as being a person of integrity, this is not the first time members of his government coalition have been involved in corruption scandals. One of the most prominent ones involved the selling of mobile phone licenses at cut-rate prices in 2010 - a scandal that is said to have cost the government up to 40 billion dollars.

Governed by graft

But corruption is not unknown to the opposition either, especially in the mining industry. Influential BJP politicians in a number of states are under scrutiny for involvement in a number of ventures for personal gain.

This fall's parliamentary session, which ends on Saturday, could have been used to tackle other pressing issues, such as getting the economy back on its feet, working to sort out problems in the education and energy sector and trying to find a solution to poverty.

"I suppose we have reached a stage in our history where we should stop expecting … I don't know - civilized behavior at one point and completely ethical politicians. I think we have gone past that," one frustrated Indian citizen commented.

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