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Indian Parliament Adjourns Amid Shouting Match

Government and opposition lawmakers
called each other thieves Friday, forcing Parliament to adjourn for
the fourth day and preventing an address by the prime minister on a
bribery scandal that brought the resignation of two Cabinet
ministers.
    The two sides continued screaming at each other, coming close to
blows outside the main gate of Parliament as police forces gathered
near a statue of Indian independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi.
    Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee planned the unusual step of
addressing the nation on state television Friday night, after a
Cabinet meeting.
    When Parliament is in session, it is customary for the
government to make no statements on major issues outside the
assembly.
    Vajpayee was called a thief when he entered the assembly to
speak on Wednesday. He has tried for three days to address
Parliament on the scandal, but opposition lawmakers have stood
before the speaker's chair, shouting slogans to force adjournment.
    The government of the world's second-most populous country has
been in turmoil since Tuesday, when an Internet web site released
videotapes of politicians and defense officials receiving money and
discussing bribes with journalists posing as defense contractors.
    Tehelka.com said its reporters spent months pretending to be
defense dealers and pushing a fake $870,000 deal for hand-held
thermal cameras and other equipment.
    Defense Minister George Fernandes resigned Thursday night,
though he denied any wrongdoing and said the allegations were aimed
at undermining national security.
    Fernandes did not appear on any tape released by the web site.
However, the president of his Samata Party, Jaiya Jaitley, was
shown in Fernandes' home talking to the ``dealers'' about getting
approval for their products as money was handed over for a party
conference.
    The Defense Ministry on Wednesday fired a general and three
other officials shown accepting money.
    The president of Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party, Bangaru
Laxman, also resigned Tuesday night after Tehelka.com released
videotapes of him accepting $2,175. Laxman said he gave the money
to his party treasurer.
    On Thursday, Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee resigned from the
Cabinet and withdrew her party from the governing coalition, saying
she was taking a stand against corruption.