On the eve of a trip to Iran for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared before the lower house of parliament today to issue a rebuttal to charges of corruption in the scandal that has become known as "coalgate." The scandal was kicked off by a recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General that accused the government of awarding coal mining contracts to companies without competitive bidding, costing the government revenue. As Singh attempted to deliver his response, he was drowned out by politicians from the opposition BJP Party shoudint "quit prime minister".
Judging from the last few years in Indian politics, they shouldn't hold their breath. Singh's government has already survived a WikiLeaks cable alleging that it bribed MPs for their votes on a nuclear deal, the arrest of two officials for forgery and cheating in connection with the awarding of contracts for the Commonwealth Games, a scandal involving the improper selling of mobile phone bandwidth that cost the government tens of billions of dollars in revenue, the firing of the government's own anti-corruption czar on corruption charges, as well as numerous other smaller-scale scandals.
So far, the prime minister has shown a remarkable ability to remain above the fray and has not been personally implicated in any of the scandals that have rocked his party. Coalgate may be a bit more serious for Singh, as some of the activities in the report date to a period when he was coal minister. But given that the BJP isn't exactly in a position to capitalize on the ruling Congress Party's troubles -- some of its officials are themselves implicated in the sketchy coal allocations -- Singh's goverment may still be able to limp down the homestretch until the 2014 general election.