Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday that he was ready to give up his public career if there was even an “iota” of truth in the allegations of graft made against him by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and his team.
Earlier this week, Team Anna levelled charges of corruption against Dr. Singh and 13 Ministers, issuing a “charge sheet” against them, and demanding the setting up of a special investigation team to probe the charges.
The allegations against Dr. Singh related to the allocation of coal blocks when he was looking after the Coal Ministry.
Asked about this at an interaction with the media on his flight back from Myanmar, a disturbed Dr. Singh first read out a prepared statement, in which he said the government would put out a “detailed factual response” once it had received the CAG’s report on which the allegations are based.
Until then, he said, “uninformed discussions based on leaked drafts are unfortunate.” Reading from the statement, he also said irresponsible allegations were being made against his Cabinet colleagues “without confirming the facts.”
But when a second question was asked on the same issue, Dr. Singh responded spontaneously in Hindi, and with much feeling:
“I will say this much for sure: the people of the country will decide what wrong has the Prime Minister committed that such harsh words are being used for him.
“If I have done anything dishonest…my whole public life, whether as Finance Minister, or in the Rajya Sabha, or [as] Leader of the Opposition, or Prime Minister, it is an open book,” he said.
Without naming anyone, he added: “If anyone makes an allegation, he must prove it. If there is even an iota of truth in the allegations, I am willing to give up my public career…the country can give me any punishment…but to use such harsh words, without rhyme or reason, I think the public in India should decide whether this sort of politics is the politics that should rule the roost in this country.”