Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has denounced fresh allegations that he turned a blind eye to corruption within hisgovernment and has vowed to resign if any wrongdoing is proved against him.
Singh reacted angrily to accusations from the anti-corruption movement headed by veteran campaigner Anna Hazare, which prepared a list of graft charges against 15 ministers including the premier.
“If there is even an iota of truth in it, then I will give up my public career and the country can give me any punishment,” Singh told reporters late Tuesday on his aeroplane back to New Delhi from Myanmar.
Singh, a media-shy academic who came to power in 2004, previously enjoyed a blemish-free reputation within India’s turbulent political world but his administration has been hit by a series of corruption scandals in recent years.
“You don’t need to take bribes yourself in order to be guilty ofcorruption offences,” Prashant Bhushan, a prominent member of Hazare’s anti-graft movement told the CNN-IBN news channel on Tuesday evening.
“We do not believe that the prime minister takes bribes himself but it is also clear to us that he is allowing a thoroughly corrupt cabinet to be in place… and allowing his cabinet ministers to loot the public exchequer.”
The latest accusations raised by Hazare’s supporters focus on coal deposits that were given away by the government rather than sold at auction.
The allegations come as the government struggles to limit damage from the “2G scam” in which the then telecoms minister A. Raja is accused of handing out second-generation mobile phone licences to select firms at knock-down prices.
“This is precisely what the prime minister appears to have done prima facie in the allocations of these coal blocks,” Bhushan, a high-profile Delhi lawyer, said.
Graft has become a hot political issue in India due to a string of high-profile scandals including the “2G scam” and contracts awarded for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Anna Hazare galvanised millions of people last year when he held a 12-day anti-corruption hunger strike in New Delhi that triggered huge rallies of support across the country.
Many Indians complain that corruption is a part of daily life and occurs in all transactions, from getting a driving licence to property sales. Graft is also seen as a major deterrent to international investment in India. AFP