Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s impromptu reply on Friday to the debate on corruption in Lok Sabha took the Opposition by surprise.
Singh, who did not read out his speech from a prepared text but spoke extempore, made a fresh attempt to break the deadlock over the Lokpal issue.
“We could have a debate in this House on all the bills that are in the public domain and have a discussion on strong and weak points of various bills…and at the end of that debate send the whole record for consideration of the standing committee of parliament,” he said.
Singh also appealed to Anna Hazare to end his fast. “He has registered his point. I respect his idealism. I respect him as
an individual. He has become the embodiment of our people’s disgust and concern about
tackling corruption. I applaud him, I salute him. His life is much too precious and therefore, I would urge Shri Hazare to end his fast.”
Singh then invited the House to issue a joint appeal to Hazare to end his fast.
During his 25-minute speech, the PM also threw a challenge to the opposition — which had sought to blame him for the scams in his government — and asked it to investigate his record since he entered politics.
“All I can say is that if any wrong has been done by me, I invite the Leader of the Opposition to look at my property which I may have accumulated in the last 41 years. I would accept the verdict…if they find that I have used public office to amass wealth for myself or for any member of my family,” he said.
A “hurt” PM took exception to personal attacks on him, saying he may have “made mistakes” but repudiated charges of conniving with the corrupt.
He said, during his seven years as PM, the opposition has accused him of “many crimes” but he had never used “harsh language” to describe the conduct of any MP.
Referring to Murli Manohar Joshi’s remarks in Lok Sabha a day before, he said the BJP leader had made “a powerful speech and made a personal attack on me as if I am the fountainhead of corruption and that I have knowingly connived with the corruption of some of my colleagues”.
Union minister Ashwani Kumar described the PM’s statement as “a charter of national reconciliation”. “It is an appeal to step back from the path of confrontation to ensure national unity in a common cause. The PM has at the same time underscored the need to reinforce the edifice of our representative democracy through a steadfast adherence to constitutional and parliamentary processes.”