Business

Manmohan upset at being named in coal scam, Cong to fight legally

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he was upset being named an accused and summoned by a special court in the coal scam, while the Congress came out in support of the former PM and charged the BJP with making cheap political capital out of the case to divert people’s attention from the “black law” on land acquisition. Senior government sources not only denied that Singh had ever approached any of them over the issue but even called him being summoned as “unfortunate”.

According to sources, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has cordial relations with the former PM and meets or speaks to him often. But not once has Singh broached the issue of him being named in the coal scam. Highly placed sources in the BJP dismissed speculation that the move to name Singh was politically motivated.

The assessment within the BJP was that the party didn’t want to play the politics of vendetta, and least of all with the former PM who enjoys a reputation of integrity among the masses. A senior leader, who didn’t want to be named, even termed the development “unfortunate”.

Singh, on being asked for his reaction to the court order, said: “Of course, I am upset but this is part of life.” The former PM added: “I have always said I am open for legal scrutiny…I am sure the truth will prevail and I will get a chance to put forward my case with all the facts.”

Singh, the third longest serving prime minister, said he respected the judicial process. “I hope in a fair trial I will prove my innocence,” he said. Singh was Coal Minister in 2005 when the government allocated Talabira-II coal block in Odisha in 2005 to Hindalco. He said he had made a statement before the CBI and as Prime Minister he had issued a statement “justifying what we did”. Asked whether he would contest the case, he said he would discuss the issue with his legal team.

The Congress backed the former PM who is currently a Rajya Sabha MP. “This is a judicial procedure which we will fight legally. There is no doubt on the integrity of the former PM and he does not feel it’s a setback for the party,” Congress leader Ahmed Patel said.

Congress communication department in-charge Randip Surjewala said the CBI found the 15 per cent share to Hindalco in Talabira II and III in Odisha including recommendation of the then Coal Secretary P C Parakh to Singh as Coal Minister “to be above board, completely fair and transparent”. Surjewala accused the BJP of politicizing the ongoing judicial process to divert people’s attention from the “black law” on land acquisition.

On SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav’s reported remark that what had happened in the case of the former Prime Minister was judicial activism, the Congress spokesman said he would not like to make any comment on the ongoing judicial process.