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Friday, 16 March, 2001, 14:04 GMT
Armsgate usurps Indian cricket triumph
BJP ex-President Bangaru Laxman
The BJP's Laxman's was the first head to roll...
Indian press coverage of the fallout from allegations that senior government officials were involved in corrupt arms deals has even eclipsed the exposure given to the cricket team's triumphant performance at the Test in Calcutta.

Most papers took the line that the scandal was symptomatic of a deep-reaching malaise in Indian political life, and that those implicated owed the people a full explanation.

Indian Test batsman V.V. Laxman
... eclipsing his cricketing namesake's heroics
The Asian Age called on Defence Minister George Fernandes to make all the facts of the case known, saying it was not enough simply to resign - as he did on Thursday evening.

"The least he should have done was to present his version of the picture to clear the murky air somewhat. By not doing so, Mr Fernandes undermined his fast-diminishing credibility even further," the paper said.

Sleaze factor

It said the disclosures - made by the Internet news website - showed that the coalition government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was no less mired in sleaze than its predecessors.

"The BJP has been exposed for being as much a host to wheeler-dealers as other parties for whom it has reserved the most vitriolic of political campaigns in the past," The Asian Age said.

"It is now as defenceless in the political morality bazaar as any," the paper added.

'Beware the Ides'

When a prime minister seems unable to swiftly sack corrupt ministers and when he lurches from crisis to crisis, the strain always shows

The Hindustan Times

Several papers speculated that Mr Fernandes' resignation, coming as it did on 15 March, could turn out to be Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's own personal "Ides of March".

"There is a point in the life of every government when those at the helm of affairs lose control over the pace of events," the Hindustan Times said in an article entitled "Is it the beginning of the end?"

"On what must have been the single-worst day in the life of the Vajpayee government, Delhi's political circles asked just one question: will the Ides of March be remembered as the point of no return for this regime?

"When a prime minister... seems unable to swiftly sack corrupt ministers and when he lurches from crisis to crisis, the strain always shows," the paper added.

The Times of India responded to the crisis with another Shakespearean reference.

"These revelations have proven something that the public always suspected in the first place: that there is something rotten in the State of Denmark," it thundered.

Guilty as those in the ruling party are, it will be a shame if the revelations only replace one set of crooks with another

The Times of India

Pots and kettles

However, the paper warned the opposition against seeking to make political capital out of the affair.

"The very same politicians who are trying to pull down those that have been exposed know only too well that their hands have been dirtied in the same way," it said.

"Guilty as those in the ruling party are, it will be a shame if the revelations only replace one set of crooks with another."

And in a piece headlined "Bye George! What a mess!", the Indian Express warned that although Mr Fernandes' resignation may have earned the Vajpayee administration "immediate respite, the government is not yet out of the woods".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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16 Mar 01 | South Asia
Arms scandal paralyses India
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