NEW DELHI, India, April 13, (Reuter): The Indian Parliament’s Upper House was abruptly adjourned today as Opposition leaders demanded that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi explain the resignation of a minister widely regarded as his Cabinet’s leading corruption fighter.

Defense Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh quit yesterday in a controversy over his investigation into an arms deal payoff that threatened to deeply embarrass the government and the ruling Congress (I) Party.

Diplomats said the resignation could damage Gandhi’s own image as the “Mr. Clean” of Indian politics and might further weaken his leadership.

In a statement last night. Singh pleaded his loyalty to Gandhi and his Party. He said he would not hold any future government office nor make any statements in the Parliament, where he had been Congress (I) leader in the Upper House

He sat impassively today in the second row of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) chamber while Opposition Members shouted and demanded the government to explain his resignation. ;

“We want a statement from the Prime Minister. Where is ‘Mr. Clean?’ Is he clean now” said Communist Member Dipen Ghosh, during the brief and raucous session.

Vice-president R. Venkataraman, who serves as chairman of the Chamber, adjourned the House “in view of the grave disorder” until Wednesday when the matter could be discussed. The Lower House was not in session today.

The resignation of 55yearold Singh brought sharp reactions this morning from ruling and opposition party leadersl, and critical comment in the Indian press.

“There is no place for an honest man in the government”, Bhim Singh, leader of an Opposition Party in Jammuand Kashmir, told the Press Trust of India (PTI).

But former Congres (I) working President Kamlapathi Tripathi, himself forced to resign by Gandhi, said Singh took “the only dignified course”.

The Authoritative Times of India said in a commentary: “Mr. Singh’s continued presence in the government would have grievously undermined Mr. Gandhi’s authority.

“But let there be no mistake that Mr. Singh has come to symbolize three virtues the Indian people value honesty, renunciation, and meekness,” it said. In recent weeks Gandhis has been embroiled in an embarrassing squabble with President Zail Singh, has seen the Congress (69) lose state elections and has been criticized for ineptness in dealing with India’s powerful bureaucracy.

Gandhi had been under pressure from supporters and party leaders to drop the 55yearold Defense Minister whom they regarded as challenging Gandhi’s leadership.

But Singh said his resignation would “nail the lie of those who have been carrying on a rumour campaign that I am overambitious”.

Singh’s resignation had been widely rumoured in political and diplomatic circles for weeks. He was named defense Minister in January after a two-year tenure as Finance Minister where he gained a reputation for rigid incorruptibility.

Article extracted from this publication >>  April 17, 1987