x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Indian minister resigns over corruption claims

The chief minister of Maharashtra, one of India's richest states, resigns over his alleged role in a housing scam involving apartments meant for war widows.

The chief minister of Maharashtra, one of India's richest states, has been forced to resign over his alleged role in a housing scam involving apartments meant for war widows.

Ashok Chavan, who only three days ago had been the first person to shake Barack Obama's hand when the US president landed in India, was directed to tender his resignation to the governor of Maharashtra.

"Pending enquiry, his (Mr Chavan's) offer of resignation has been accepted," Congress party general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said in a brief statement.

Mr Chavan had been implicated in a scandal over a new apartment block in an upscale Mumbai district where homes meant for war widows were sold off to politicians and military officers.

After handing in his resignation, Mr Chavan insisted he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

"I will emerge clean, let the investigations take place," he told reporters.

"I do not see this as a setback. In politics and public life, there are always ups and downs," he said, adding he would continue to serve as a Congress party worker in the state.

Mr Chavan took charge in December 2008 from Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was forced to step down in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks in which 166 people were killed by Islamic gunmen in a three-day siege.

The apartment scam deeply embarrassed India's ruling Congress party, and the Press Trust of India reported that party president Sonia Gandhi had personally directed Mr Chavan to step down.

The announcement that the resignation had been accepted came as parliament resumed for its winter session and opposition MPs attacked the government over the scandal.