| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Dec 24 Indian federal agents
questioned a former telecoms minister over the country's
biggest corruption case on Friday, a move the government hopes
will help ease a crippling political row with the opposition.
Andimuthu Raja is being investigated over his role in the
sale of telecoms licences, which a government audit says may
have been given too cheaply to ineligible firms in 2007-8,
causing a potential government revenue loss of $39 billion.
The row has led to the most serious political standoff in
recent times in India with an assertive opposition disrupting
the last session of parliament which ended this month,
demanding a joint inquiry which would have the power to summon
the prime minister for questioning.
The standoff has put policymaking in limbo and economic
reforms have been delayed in Asia's third-largest economy.
R.K. Gaur, spokesman of the Central Bureau of
Investigation (CBI), said Raja was being questioned at the
agency's New Delhi office.
Although there is little threat to the Congress party-led
government, a series of scandals has eroded its image since an
impressive election victory last year and has become a test of
how Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tackles widespread corruption.
Raja, a member of the DMK party from south India which is
a key member of the coalition, denies any wrongdoing.
Corruption is widespread in India and prosecutions are
rare, particularly of high government officials or political
The world's second-fastest growing major economy ranks
87th on graft watchdog Transparency International's list based
on perceived corruption -- a worse rating than rival China.
India's Supreme Court had criticised the CBI for not
questioning Raja in its year-long investigation despite him
being at the centre of the inquiry.
The country's top court has also dragged the prime
minister into the scandal by forcing him to answer questions
on why he was slow to act against Raja.
(Writing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Nick Macfie)