India’s opposition has demanded the resignation of Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, raising the stakes after forcing the exit of two cabinet ministers over corruption scandals.
Pressure has been building for months on the premier, who is widely accused of ineffectiveness while overseeing a sharp economic slowdown and turning a blind eye to a slew of graft controversies that have alarmed foreign investors.
“The government is facing serious corruption allegations,” Rajnath Singh, president of the Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said on Saturday.
“If the prime minister honestly introspects about what should be done to strengthen the faith of the people in the government, he will find he has no other option but to resign,” Rajnath Singh told reporters in New Delhi.
His calls came after law minister Ashwani Kumar quit on what the media dubbed “Black Friday” over government interference in a police probe, while railway minister Pawan Bansal resigned over a separate bribe allegation controversy.
The resignations have heightened speculation about how long the minority left-leaning government, clinging to power with the support of two regional parties, can stagger on. Its five-year mandate expires in May 2014.
“They definitely are very vulnerable now,” political analyst Subhash Agrawal of think-tank India Focus told AFP.
Congress however fought on Saturday to contain the fallout, insisting the ministers’ resignations showed it had zero tolerance for graft.
Congress “has once again clearly shown if there is suspicion on anyone – even if unproved – they are made to resign”, party leader Digvijaya Singh said.
Kumar insisted on Saturday he was innocent of wrongdoing and had quit as a “loyal (party) footsoldier” to end “unnecessary controversy”.
“My conscience remains clear and I believe I will stand vindicated,” he said.