On Board PM’s Special Aircraft, October 24: Holding that he was not above the law, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday offered to face the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or “for that matter anybody” in the coal scam probe as he has nothing to hide.
Dr. Singh, who has been under opposition attack after the filing of an FIR by the CBI against industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and former Coal Secretary P C Parakh in a coal block allocation case, broke his personal silence for the first time since the controversy broke out 10 days ago.
“I am not above the law of the land. If there is anything the CBI or, for that matter anybody, wants to ask me, I have nothing to hide,” he told reporters on board his special plane on the way back from China after a two-nation visit.
He was asked about the clarification issued by the PMO last week that the decision to allocate a coal block to Birla-headed Hindalco in Odisha was appropriate and there was nothing wrong. The opposition attacked Dr. Singh, saying he was charge of the Coal Ministry at that time and he should subject himself to questioning by CBI.
Noted industrialists and trade bodies had attacked the CBI action, saying caution should be exercised while dealing with reputed individuals, industrialists and honest bureaucrats.
Initially, Dr. Singh appeared to be reticent in answering a question on whether CBI should be given so much autonomy that an inspector of the agency would be allowed to question the prime minister.
“Well, let me say, this matter is before the courts and I would not like to comment on it,” he replied.
He was asked for his comments about the Supreme Court monitoring the probe in various scams affecting the decision-making process and adding to the government’s image of being struck by “policy paralysis”.
“I would not like to go into what is happening in the Supreme Court. It is the highest court of the country and I would not like to comment about the court as to what it does or does not,” he responded.
To a question whether CBI cases and scams were casting a shadow on his legacy as Prime Miniser, Singh shot back, “That is for history to judge. I am doing my duty and will continue to do my duty. What impact my 10 years of prime ministership will have, it is for historians to judge.”
Singh disappointed over ceasefire violations
Dr. Singh further added that he was disappointed with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif and asked him “even at this late hour” to recognise that what was happening on the LoC and International Border is not good for the two nations.
“Let me say I am disappointed because in the New York meeting (between them last month) there was a general agreement on both the sides that peace and tranquillity should be maintained on the border, LoC as well as IB and it has not happened. It has come to me as a big disappointment,” Dr. Singh told reporters.
“We had agreed at that time that if the ceasefire of 2003 has held ground for 10 years, then it could be made to hold later on also. That it has not happened is something which is really a disappointment,” he said when asked whether he was disappointed with Sharif.
He said even at this late hour he sincerely hoped that Sharif would recognise that this development “is not good for either of the two countries“.
The Prime Minister’s concerns comes against the backdrop of heavy firing by Pakistani troops not only along the LoC but also along the IB and the loss of lives of two BSF personnel in the last one week and continuing ceasefire violations in the past three weeks even after the New York meeting.
Over the New York meeting on the margins of the UNGA, Singh had come under attack from BJP for engaging in “futile talks” with Pakistan.
Modi campaign will wane, Cong will surprise again with win
Dr. Singh said the Narendra Modi-led BJP campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections “will peak early” and the country will be “once again surprised” by the results that will bring Congress back to power.
He also rejected a view that the Congress campaign has not been active and that the Gujarat Chief Minister was rising in popularity because of a number of scams during the tenure of UPA-II.
“Well, I think the Congress party is quite active. I don’t share the view that Congress party is not quite active enough. The BJP may have started early but it will also peak early. Slow and steady, I think, is a thing which sometimes works in public life as well. I am confident that the Congress party will come out victorious in the 2014 elections,” Dr. Singh said.
When asked whether the various scams in UPA, price rise and resignation of two ministers have affected his credibility and Modi’s popularity was rising, the Prime minister shot back, “first of all, I would say that the scams that you are referring to took place not in UPA I but UPA II.
“After that we had a general election. The Congress party won in that election hands down and I am sure when the results of 2014 elections get out, the country will once again be surprised,” Dr. Singh said.
GoM on Telangana will find solution
Dr. Singh also expressed the hope that the Group of Ministers going into the Telangana issue will come up with a “solution” to the complicated problem.
“The matter is now before the Group of Ministers (GoM). They are going into all aspects of the problem and I am sure they will come out with viable solution to this very difficult and complicated problem,” he told reporters accompanying on his way back home from a two-nation trip to Russia and China.
He was asked whether he was confident that Telangana can be realised before the 2014 elections after resolving tricky issues like the status of Hyderabad.
The Union Cabinet last month decided that the new state of Telangana would be created after splitting Andhra Pradesh, triggering protests and opposition from the regions of Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra called Seemandhra