Prime Minister is an honest man, says Team Anna
Anna Hazare and his team against corruption continue to press for an independent probe into coal mine allocations
In a climb down from the earlier charge of accusing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of corruption, Team Anna on Wednesday issued a statement in which it claimed that Singh is an honest man and may have not directly benefited from the coal mine allocation. However, it demanded an inquiry by an independent agency into the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) allegations of Rs 1.8 lakh crore losses in the allotments.
“If the prime minister is serious, he should accept the offer of a special investigation team for probing the allegations we have made against him and 14 other ministers,” said senior lawyer and Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan.
The new clash between the government and Team Anna began when the latter disclosed a draft of CAG report that claimed losses in coal allotments and accused the prime minister of corruption. Singh has claimed that he would quit public life if any of the charges are proven correct. Team Anna has also accused 14 other UPA ministers of corruption.
On Wednesday, Team Anna asked some direct questions like whether it is true that coal secretary has advised tendering of coal mines that was overruled by the PMO. Didn’t the PM personally sign these allotment files?
Reacting to Singh’s charges that Team Anna’s earlier statements were unsubstantiated and irresponsible, it clarified that the allegations have been made by CAG, which is a constitutional body. “Is the PM calling the CAG report irresponsible,” asked Team Anna members in the statement “I don't think that allegations against the PM were irresponsible. He held the portfolio of coal when the major scam happened,” added Bhushan.
Bringing in its old demand for Jan Lokpal, the group insisted if Lokpal was in place such corruption would not have taken place. According to Team Anna, CAG reports claims there has been a loss of Rs 1,80,000 crore due to biased coal mine allotments during 2006 to 2009—a term when the coal ministry was directly under the PM.
In his statement dated 29 March 2012, in which the PM said the people of the country have to decide on the type on politics Team Anna is promoting, there was a sharper reaction. “We oppose the kind of politics that is present prevailing in our country,” Team Anna said in a statement. They insisted that they are not part of politics instead they represent the common man who is suffering during rising prices and corruption.
Interestingly, Anna Hazare himself kept insisting that Singh is an honest man to which Team Anna members insisted that Hazare hasn’t gone through the charges made by CAG as the files are in English. Meanwhile, Subramanian Swamy has asked Hazare to leave the company of his team and join him and Ramdev in their campaign against corruption.
Kunal Majumder is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.