India’s embattled prime minister defended his government on Wednesday against a string of corruption scandals, saying that he took the allegations seriously and would punish anyone involved, no matter their position.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has been wracked by allegations that Cabinet ministers and ruling party officials orchestrated shady deals over the sale of cellular phone licenses, presided over faulty preparations for the Commonwealth Games and were involved in other alleged scams that cost the government billions of dollars.
The scandals have dominated politics in India for months. The entire winter session of parliament was paralyzed by the opposition amid demands for the establishment of an independent investigative body, which Singh refused.
Singh told reporters during a news conference Wednesday that the guilty would be punished.
“I wish to assure you, and I wish to assure the country as a whole that our government is dead serious in bringing to book all the wrongdoers, regardless of the positions they may occupy,” he said.
He denied any personal connection to the scandals, and expressed concerns that the nation’s image was being badly tarnished.
“We are weakening the self confidence of the people of India. I don’t think that is in the interest of anybody that is in our country. We have a functioning government … we take our job very seriously. We are here to govern and govern effectively,” he said, mildly chiding reporters for focusing so heavily on the scams.
“India as a whole has to march forward,” he said.