In­dian PM Man­mo­han has ‘noth­ing to hide’ in tele­com scan­dal

The Pak Banker - - International3 -

NEW DELHI: In­dia's premier Man­mo­han Singh said on Mon­day he had "noth­ing to hide" as he of­fered to be quizzed by a par­lia­men­tary panel over a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar tele­com scan­dal that has shaken his govern­ment.

Singh, who en­joys a rep­u­ta­tion for hon­esty in In­dia's murky po­lit­i­cal world, has been bat­tling to pro­tect his im­age against ac­cu­sa­tions of fail­ing to act over the govern­ment's cut-price sale of mo­bile tele­phone li­cences in 2008.

"I have noth­ing to hide from the pub­lic at all," Singh, 78, de­clared at a Congress party an­nual strat­egy meet­ing, adding he would write to the chair­man of par­lia­ment's pub­lic ac­counts com­mit­tee ask­ing to ap­pear be­fore it.

He said be­ing ques­tioned by the com­mit­tee should si­lence op­po­si­tion par­ties who have de­manded a cross-party probe into the sale of sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion (2G) li­cences.

Singh said his of­fer was in­tended to clear the air and en­sure the prime min­is­ter was "above sus­pi­cion" in the scan­dal, which the fed­eral au­di­tor said could have cost the govern­ment up to 40 bil­lion dol­lars in lost rev­enues.

As premier since 2004, "I may have made mis­takes" but "I have tried to serve my coun­try," said the tur­baned Sikh, an aca­demic who spear­headed In­dia's eco­nomic lib­er­al­i­sa­tion in the 1990s when he was fi­nance min­is­ter.

Singh has re­peat­edly re­fused op­po­si­tion de­mands for the cross-party probe into the scan­dal, which paral­ysed par­lia­ment for the en­tire win­ter ses­sion, say­ing other in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the al­le­ga­tions were suf­fi­cient.

Singh has been ac­cused of fail­ing to in­ter­vene when his then tele­coms min­is­ter, A. Raja, sold the 2G li­cences for a frac­tion of their value.

There is no sug­ges­tion Singh ben­e­fited per­son­ally from the sales to al­legedly pre­ferred bid­ders. But crit­ics have ac­cused Singh of turn­ing a blind eye for the sake of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency-Raja's re­gional DMK party is needed by Congress to shore up its coali­tion. Arun Jait­ley, a leader of the Hindu na­tion­al­ist Bharatiya Janata Party which has been lead­ing the op­po­si­tion protests, re­jected Singh's of­fer to ap­pear be­fore par­lia­ment's ac­counts com­mit­tee.

Jait­ley, whose party has threat­ened to also block the Fe­bru­ary ses­sion of par­lia­ment over the scan­dal, said the com­mit­tee had too nar­row a man­date to probe ques­tions such as why Singh "kept quiet for all these years".

"The nation is wait­ing for the an­swers, they can­not to be given to a fo­rum of your (Singh's) choice," Jait­ley said.

Singh's state­ment came a day af­ter party pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi, the power­bro­ker of In­dian pol­i­tics who tapped him to be premier in 2004, backed Singh, call­ing him "the em­bod­i­ment of so­bri­ety, dig­nity and in­tegrity". -Afp

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