India's telecommunications minister resigned Sunday amid a major
corruption scandal. His is one of a string of resignations as
India's anticorruption drive gets under way.
India's telecommunications minister resigned Sunday over
allegations of massive corruption. His was the latest in a recent
string of graft-related resignations from India's Congress-led
government - and the clearest sign yet the government is attempting
to clean up its tainted image ahead of important state elections.
Andimuthu Raja, who until Sunday presided over the world's
fastest-growing telecoms market, handed his resignation to Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh a year after an investigation began into the
sale of second generation airwave licenses to mobile phone
operators. Those sales are reported to have deprived the Indian
version of the IRS of up to $30 billion in revenue.
Political corruption has long been a major concern in India, but
little has been done to address it until recently. Transparency
International ranked India 84th out 180 countries in its Corruption
Perceptions Index last year. In a 2008 study, the organization found
that Indians living below the poverty line paid out $195 million
annually in bribes to access basic services.
New push against corruption
Indeed, in a country in which politicians often elude justice,
and about a quarter of Indian parliamentarians have faced criminal
charges, Mr. Raja's downfall is particularly significant because he
is a member of the DMK party, which rules the southern state of
Tamil Nadu and is a key ally in the Congress-led coalition. Because
his departure could weaken the government's majority, analysts say
the government for the first time appears to be prioritizing its
Upcoming elections in states in the south are a factor in such a
visible anticorruption campaign, say observers. The government is
likely to have been emboldened to do this following last year's
general elections, which gave the Congress party a bigger majority.
Another factor is possibly the international embarrassment caused by
allegations of corruption that marred the Commonwealth Games in
Speaking with university students Monday, Rahul Gandhi, scion of
the Congress party, said the central government was taking decisive
action over corruption. "There is need to be very strict on
corruption and the government is in the process of taking some very
strict action," he said.
Since parliament opened last week, the opposition has repeatedly
blocked proceedings, demanding the government act against