India's senior Congress leader resigns after sex scandal

HYDERABAD, India Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:43am EST

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HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) - A senior Congress leader and governor of a southern Indian state resigned after an alleged sex scandal in another blow to the ruling Congress party which is facing protests over statehood demands there.

Governor N.D. Tiwari, a top representative of India's president in Andhra Pradesh state, resigned late on Saturday after a local television channel aired a video of the 86-year-old Congress leader allegedly in bed with three young women.

Tiwari said the footage was doctored, but an embarrassed Congress party asked the governor to resign.

The Congress faces a mid-term poll in the state if political parties continue to protest and lawmakers resign en masse over demands for a new Telangana state,

"This incident adds to the problems of the Congress party and the government will now have to look for a replacement who they will hope can control the political turmoil and keep the house in order in Andhra Pradesh," said N. Bhaskara Rao of the Center for Media studies.

The Congress party, which has won several key state polls recently and has 33 lawmakers in parliament from Andhra Pradesh state which it also rules, does not want any further trouble in the key state, experts said.

The political developments in Andhra Pradesh have made politicians and investors jittery, especially in the state's main city of Hyderabad, which houses firms like Microsoft, Google and Mahindra Satyam, among others.

The regional Telangana Rashtra Samiti party, which is spearheading the statehood demand has given the government time until Monday to decide on Telangana or face wider protests.

Tiwari's office said the veteran politician, who has held positions of Congress chief minister in the past resigned on health grounds.

"Whatever the reasons, this comes at a very bad time for the Congress party in Andhra Pradesh," said Ganguli.

The three-and-half minute footage was the most watched video on YouTube on Saturday in India and newspapers splashed front page stories on the sex scandal on Sunday that has sparked online debates on the conduct of politicians in India.

The Congress party, which has been criticized by the opposition for distancing itself from a move to carve the Telangana state after initially announcing its support, welcomed Tiwari's resignation and said it might take more action.

(Writing by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

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