Corruption claims cripple Modi's reform agenda

Corruption claims cripple Modi's reform agenda
PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's economic reform agenda is facing an impasse amid threats by the opposition Congress Party to block parliamentary proceedings until political leaders accused of involvement in corruption are removed.

Uncertainty looms over the current 21-day session of parliament, which began on July 21. Congress representatives have disrupted the upper house of parliament, in which Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party is in a minority. The lower house, in which the BJP has a substantial majority, also postponed its proceedings on the first day of the session to mark the recent death of a member.

The action by the left of centre Congress Party will make it difficult for the BJP to pass bills easing land acquisition regulations and implementing a goods and services tax, which together form the cornerstone of Modi's economic reform agenda.

"Until and unless the prime minister breaks his silence on the corruption scandals, we will not allow parliament to function," Congress leader Mohinder Singh Kaypee told the Nikkei Asian Review.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of India directed the Central Bureau of Investigation, the country's premier law enforcement agency, to examine a US$1 million (S$1.34 million) scandal known by the Hindu acronym Vyapam, which involves the alleged rigging of entrance tests for government medical colleges and Civil Service jobs in the BJP-ruled state of Madhya Pradesh. Dozens of witnesses and others in the case are alleged to have died in mysterious circumstances since the scam was exposed.

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