Will departure of embattled India anti-graft chief end Congress party woes?

December 4, 2010

India’s Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the country’s federal anti-corruption body, has a self-affirmed mandate to “fight corruption and ensure probity in public life by taking various preventive and proactive initiatives from time to time.”
The Indian parliament on Wednesday approved a $9.8-billion additional spending bill to cover various payments including outstanding government debt, food and fertiliser subsidies, and government pensions. The bill was passed by a voice vote in parliament, a type of vote allowing the government to bypass a three-week deadlock between the ruling Congress party-led coalition and opposition parties caused by rows over a series of corruption scandals. REUTERS/B Mathur
Faced with a windfall of political scandals to investigate, red faces thus abounded at the CVC when media reports showed that its chief, and the highest anti-corruption officer in the country, P.J. Thomas, was himself facing questioning in connection with corruption allegations.

Thomas, who was appointed to the position by the Prime Minister and Home Minister in September despite being implicated in a 1992 palmolein import fraud case while serving in the Kerala state government, on Saturday found himself the subject of strong resignation rumours as the central government desperately seeks to insulate itself from contagious graft allegations

The embattled Thomas has already been stripped of his leadership of a probe into an alleged $39 billion telecoms scam due to the outstanding charges and his tenure as the Telecommunications Secretary during the time that the alleged illegalities took place in the ministry.

With both houses of parliament deadlocked for 16 consecutive days due to the opposition baying for blood over the mounting allegations, Thomas is seen as the suitable fall guy to ease the cross-party congestion.

“Thomas appointment has become a liability for the Congress,” The Hindu reported one Congress source as saying.

Unsurprisingly, Thomas has shown a robust reluctance to stand down.

Resigning from his privileged position and becoming private citizen again is likely to mean he simply jumps from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.

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