Indian PM drowned out in growing furore over 'coalgate'

NEW DELHI - Indian lawmakers chanting "quit prime minister" drowned out Manmohan Singh on Monday as he sought to defend his government's role in an affair dubbed "coalgate" that has paralyzed parliament and created a sense of political crisis.
The controversy has stalled reform efforts at a time when the economy is suffering a sharp slowdown and investors are pressing for changes to rules to allow more foreign investment in the pension, retail, banking and insurance industries.
"Coalgate" is a short-hand reference to a state auditor's report published on Aug. 17 that questioned the government's practice of awarding coal mining concessions to companies without competitive bidding, potentially costing the treasury billions of dollars in lost revenues.
"I wish to say that any allegations of impropriety are without basis and unsupported by facts," said Singh, who is not expected to yield to the opposition's demands for him to go.
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