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December 5, 2005
Will India's Government Fall Over OFF?

The Indian government, under the Congress Party, may fall due to connections described in the Volcker Report on the Oil-For-Food program. The AFP reports that a key minister faces parliamentary ire for his corruption by Saddam Hussein, and that the ruling party's blocking of parliamentary procedure may create a backlash among MPs:

India's opposition piled pressure on the government in parliament over new charges that the former foreign minister and the ruling Congress party joined a scam to profit from the UN oil-for-food programme in Iraq.

Trouble erupted within minutes of parliament assembling as MPs belonging to the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) jumped to their feet to demand the resignation of ex-foreign minister Natwar Singh, now serving as cabinet minister without portfolio.

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said the opposition could discuss later the new charges that Singh and the Congress party received special vouchers to purchase oil cheaply from Baghdad in 2001 in return for political support.

But the opposition, whose campaign to embarrass the government in parliament fell short last week, voiced determination to capitalise on the disclosures about the scandal made on Friday by Congress insider Anil Matherani.

Chatterjee first adjourned the parliamentary session for 30 minutes, then till later in the afternoon and finally for the day.

Singh served as foreign minister for India during the latter years of Saddam's rule; he crafted and delivered the policy of opposition to the war on Iraq. Now, as Volcker has revealed, we all know he received over four million barrels of oil. Not only did Singh himself received that sum, but also the ruling Congress Party itself got a similar allotment of Iraqi oil. It looks like a payoff, and a profitable one at that.

Now CP wants to shut down the Indian parliament to keep debate from returning to accountability on why Saddam would have given Indian government officials that much oil. I doubt that will create a particularly trustful atmosphere for the government. Indians will not long resist the urge to toss out the executive and hold new elections, if that's what it takes to get answers to these questions. Expect the CP to stop its obstructionism and offer up some sacrificial lambs, and quickly, before momentum builds to replace the CP with others less involved in Saddam's corruption.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 5, 2005 7:14 AM

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