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India's telecoms minister quits over corruption claims

India's telecommunications minister has resigned over corruption allegations stemming from the sale of bandwidth for cellphone services to mobile operators.

NEW DELHI // India's telecommunications minister resigned on Sunday over corruption allegations stemming from a federal probe into the sale of bandwidth for cellphone services to mobile operators.

Following days of strident calls by the opposition for him to quit, A. Raja announced he would step down as telecommunications minister "in order to avoid embarrassment to the government and maintain peace and harmony in parliament".

The politician, who presided over the world's fastest growing mobile market, handed in his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

"My conscience is very clear," Raja said in televised remarks outside the home of the prime minister after submitting his resignation. "I did much for the country."

Raja had been accused by the opposition of awarding second-generation spectrum for mobile phones in 2008 below market rates, costing the government billions of dollars in lost revenues.

Raja, whose southern DMK party is part of the ruling Congress-led coalition, said he had "done everything according to the law" and denied any wrongdoing.

The opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which had been pressing for Raja's dismissal, called his decision to quit a "victory for democracy".

The prime minister will hold the telecommunications portfolio until a cabinet reshuffle in January, according to India's CNN-IBN television network.

The low returns from the 2G license allocations were underscored when India in May concluded an auction for superfast third-generation bandwidth that raised the government $15 billion.

Raja was the second minister to quit this year. In April, Shashi Tharoor, a former senior UN diplomat, resigned as India's junior foreign minister after a damaging cricket team ownership scandal.

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