Scandals threaten Modi's 'scam-free' govt pledge
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bold promise of a squeaky clean government is under threat just over 12 months after his landslide election victory, with a string of scandals erupting across the country.
Two months ago, Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrated their first year in office, trumpeting initiatives introduced to reform Asia's third largest economy and proclaiming the government scam free.
But just weeks later, embarrassing allegations ensnared Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj along with the chief ministers of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where the right-wing BJP rules at the state level.
Analysts say the government's credibility risks damage after it pledged an honest and efficient administration, to attract much-needed foreign investment and win over voters enraged about endemic corruption.
Graft scandals plagued the previous Congress-led government, resulting in policy paralysis and the worst economic slowdown since the 1980s.
The latest allegations also threaten Modi's critical land, taxation and other legislative reforms, with this week's new session of parliament erupting in chaos over opposition demands for Swaraj and the chief ministers to resign.
"These scams that have broken out have really lowered the image of the BJP-led government," said Satish Misra, a senior fellow with the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank.
"BJP leaders celebrated their first year with a lot of pomp and show, saying 'we have no scams, we are incorruptible'. But in the 13th month, there were scams breaking out everywhere," Misra told AFP.
The government has staunchly resisted calls to sack Swaraj over her role in helping corruption-hit former cricket boss Lalit Modi obtain a passport in the UK.
The BJP has stood behind Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, under fire for allegedly supporting Lalit Modi's UK immigration application while he was under investigation back in India for graft.
But it is also under pressure over Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state, where thousands of people are alleged to have bribed officials and politicians in return for jobs or places in training institutes.
India's top court has ordered a federal investigation into the so-called Vyapam scam after a spate of recent deaths fuelled claims of a mass cover-up by the Chouhan government.
The opposition says dozens of people associated with the scam, including witnesses, have died but state authorities say there is little evidence to connect any of the deaths or to suggest foul play.