Indian parliament adjourned over telecoms 'scam' uproar

A Raja A Raja denies having undersold licences to mobile phone firms (Photo: Indian Express)

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Parliament in India has been adjourned in uproar after the government rejected a joint inquiry into an alleged telecoms scandal.

Such was the commotion in the chamber, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could not even make a statement on the matter.

Telecommunications minister A Raja quit on Sunday, denying allegations that he had undersold mobile phone licences.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee ruled out a joint inquiry, saying "impartial" agencies were already investigating.

'Meaningful'

Opposition leader Sitaram Yechury, of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said a "meaningful" joint probe was needed to investigate the "scam and set up rules and benchmarks for the future".

Start Quote

My conscience is very clear - I did much for the country”

End Quote A Raja

Mr Raja presided over the world's fastest growing mobile market; there are about half a billion mobile phone subscribers in India.

His political party, DMK, is one of the largest partners in India's ruling Congress-led coalition.

Mr Raja is accused of issuing 2G licences in 2008 on a "first-come, first-served" basis instead of auctioning them, costing the government billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Critics said the low return was underscored when India's auction in May of 3G bandwidth for mobile phone services ended up reaping $15bn, twice the sum expected.

After quitting on Sunday, Mr Raja said he had made his decision to "avoid embarrassment to the government".

In televised remarks outside the home of the prime minister, he said: "I will prove my innocence, I did everything in accordance with the law.

"I did a revolution in the telecom sector. My conscience is very clear. I did much for the country."

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had been clamouring for Mr Raja's dismissal, called his departure a "victory for democracy".

Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad labelled the 2G licence sale the "mother of all scams" and said Mr Raja should be prosecuted.

Last week, two senior Congress party members resigned over separate corruption allegations.

Ashok Chavan quit as the chief minister of western Maharashtra state amid claims homes reserved for war widows went to politicians and military officers.

Controversial Commonwealth Games organiser Suresh Kalmadi also quit his party post; preparations for October's sporting spectacular were overshadowed by sleaze allegations.

Mr Raja was the second federal government minister to quit this year.

In April, Shashi Tharoor, a former senior UN diplomat, resigned as India's junior foreign minister after a cricket team ownership scandal.

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