After the Prime Minister promised to resign if "even an iota of truth" was found in the allegations of corruption levelled against him by Team Anna, he has been urged by Justice Santosh Hegde, who has worked closely with the activists in the past, to allow an inquiry to prove his innocence. However, Justice Hegde, who has served as the Lokayukta or ombudsman of Karnataka, repeated today, "I distance myself from Team Anna's allegations against the PM." (Watch)
"I myself am finding it very difficult to believe that there could be any charge or allegation of corruption against Manmohan Singh. I am finding it extremely difficult to believe, but at the same time, the things are happening in this country in such a way that at least let him clear himself of this allegation. I think some enquiry should be conducted," he said.
Team Anna, the term for the aides of Gandhian Anna Hazare, has demanded that the PM sanction a Special Investigation Team (SIT) by July 24 to study the charges hurtled by them against him and other ministers. They have warned of an indefinite hunger strike if their request is not accepted. The BJP has also called for an independent investigation into reports of a large coal scam, though it has earlier this week said that it does not support the language used by the activists against the PM. The party's Rajiv Pratap Rudy described Dr Manmohan Singh as "an honest PM, who heads a dishonest government." Mr Rudy added, "His ministers go to jail...he becomes a suspect, because of situations."
In Dr Singh's case, the activists say he is guilty of preventing an auction of coal fields between 2005 and 2009; for a large part of this period, he had charge of the Coal Ministry. A draft report by the government's auditor, leaked in March, said that in the absence of an auction, private companies had been gifted huge gains. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai later said the leaked portions of the report were misleading. The PM said on Tuesday, "Uninformed allegations and discussions based on the leaked draft are unfortunate."
Dr Manmohan Singh yesterday took a strong stand on the allegations made public against him over the weekend by Team Anna members like Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal. They accused 14 senior ministers and him of graft. After considerable criticism, Mr Bhushan said on Tuesday that what he meant was that the PM is used as a shield by his party to protect corrupt ministers. "To use such words, which have been used without reason or rhyme, I think, the public in India should make up its mind whether this sort of politics will rule the roost in the country," the PM said.
The ministers targeted by the activists include P Chidambaram, SM Krishna and Salman Khurshid.