(Refiles adding title and first name of Raja in paragraph
(Adds details, quotes)
By Nigam Prusty and Krittivas Mukherjee
NEW DELHI, Feb 8 The government appeared close
to agreeing to a parliamentary probe into India's biggest
corruption scandal in decades after a possible climbdown by
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to pave the way for the budget to
be passed later this month, sources said.
At the centre of the graft charges is a potential $39
billion fraud in awarding of telecoms licences in 2008. The
opposition forced the December parliament session to shut,
demanding a parliamentary probe into the scam.
The Congress party-led coalition government has seen its
second term tarnished by a string of corruption scams that have
led to the sacking of a minister and eroded public confidence
in the prime minister and his party.
On Tuesday, the government held its third round of talks
with opposition parties in a bid to break the deadlock and
several members of the ruling coalition who attended the
meeting said the government would likely to agree a joint
The government has for months opposed a parliamentary
probe, fearing a long-drawn out investigation could overshadow
key state election campaigns this year and worried politicians
including Singh would have to appear before the investigating
"The government cannot make an announcement now as
parliamentary convention requires such a decision to be
announced in the house," a lawmaker of one of the coalition
allies who attended the meeting told Reuters.
The lawmaker said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the
government's chief trouble shooter, told the meeting that "no
price is dearer than running parliament".
A senior Congress source said: "The mood today is that the
government needs to do everything to distance it from
corruption. We expect the government will eventually agree."
Another round of meeting to break the deadlock is likely
before parliament opens where the government could informally
tell the opposition that it will order a joint probe.
Opposition parties have called on Singh to resign, saying
he avoided pursuing a case against former telecoms minister
Andimuthu Raja, who belongs to a party that is key to
maintaining the coalition's majority.
There is no risk to the passage of the 2011/12 budget as
the government has the required numbers, but the lack of debate
will add to a sense of a breakdown in governance in Asia's
(Editing by Alistair Scrutton)