India opposition: Parliament should probe games

AP News
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Posted: Oct 19, 2010 7:09 AM
India opposition: Parliament should probe games

India's main opposition party demanded a parliamentary investigation on Tuesday into the country's Commonwealth Games, which were marred by allegations of corruption, construction delays and cost overruns that deeply embarrassed the rising superpower.

Since the international sporting event ended last week, Indian officials have been trying to deflect responsibility for the games problems and implicate their political rivals. The government ordered a probe into the problems to be headed by a senior bureaucrat, but the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday asked for a parliamentary investigation instead.

The party also demanded that the games' ballooning costs be added to the list of things investigated. The budget for the competition skyrocketed to 700 billion rupees ($15 billion) from the estimated 18.9 billion rupees ($412 million).

Millions of dollars were siphoned by companies run by relatives of games officials, Nitin Gadkari, the party president, told reporters.

"The scandal should be probed by a joint parliamentary committee," he said.

Local media have reported similar corruption, with millions of dollars allegedly pocketed by officials and cronies.

The ruling Congress party has called for restraint from all sides, embarrassed by the open spat over responsibility between New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who is the equivalent of the city's mayor, and the games' organizing committee chairman, Suresh Kalmadi. Both are Congress politicians.

The Olympic-style competition brought together about 7,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries and territories of the Commonwealth, as the former British Empire is now known.

Many countries considered withdrawing from the games following long construction delays, the collapse of a foot bridge and the discovery of filthy conditions in the athletes' village just days before the games were to begin.

As the two-week games ended last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered a probe into the delays and corruption allegations. Authorities will also looking into ticketing problems: Spectators said they were often surrounded by empty seats, despite ticket-sellers say all seats had been sold. The Times of India reported that ticket sales brought in less than half the expected 1.1 billion rupees ($24 million).

The inquiry committee, headed by V.K. Shunglu, a former auditor-general, will submit its findings within three months to the prime minister.