Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday on board his special aircraft offered to open his doors for questioning by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the probe into the allocation of a coal block to Aditya Birla Group company Hindalco.
“I am not above the law of the land. If there is anything that the CBI, or for that matter, anybody wants to ask, I have nothing to hide,” Singh said as he headed back from Beijing ahead of polls in five states including Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.
Singh’s offer to put himself under the CBI scanner is his first.
The opposition has been seeking to know why the CBI is not investigating Singh, who had cleared the allocation of the coal block in Odisha as the minister in-charge in 2005. Hindalco has denied any wrongdoing in the allocation.
Read More: CBI asks PMO for Odisha's Talabira coalfield files
The Prime Minister’s Office had hoped to cap the controversy before Singh left on a two-nation tour to cement ties with Russia and China with a detailed statement, explaining the circumstances and reasons for the decision.
It had recalled that Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik had written to them to give Hindalco the coal block to help generate more employment in the state.
Read More: Coal block allocation to Hindalco entirely appropriate, says PM
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, did not relent and has kept up the pressure on the Congress-led UPA government and the CBI, which is investigating 14 cases in the coal scandal.
PM addresses a press conference on board his special flight as he returns to India after his visit to Russia and China. (PTI Photo)
Asked if a string of scandals, from the 2G spectrum allocation to the coal allocation scam, had cast a shadow on his legacy, Singh said, “That is for history to judge”.
“I am doing my duty… What impact my 10 years of Prime Ministership will have is something which is for historians to judge.”
Read More: PM ready to face CBI’s coal queries, says Kamal Nath
BJP, Left doubt PM will appear before CBI
Shortly after the Prime Minister said he was open to questioning by the CBI, opposition parties on Thursday expressed doubt over the statement and demanded all coal allocations done under him be examined.
"We have serious apprehensions he may not appear before CBI," senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said, adding that the Prime Minister may not appear before the CBI just as he did earlier when he offered, but later refused to appear before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee looking into the controversial 2G spectrum allocations.
The Communist Party of India, too, doubted the Prime Minister's remark. CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta termed the remark a "belated realisation" and "only a show off".
In wake of the CBI slapping a case against Hindalco, Assocham had sought the Prime Minister’s intervention to end the "environment of distrust" which had arisen due to "half-baked cases" against industry leaders, cautioning this could further impair decision making.
"We find ourselves in a situation where half-baked cases are being slapped against top leaders of the industry and retired bureaucrats based on perceptions, interpretations and mere inferences," Assocham said in a letter to Manmohan Singh.
"We fear that more industrialists could be targets of the CBI probes which in all likelihood would not bring out any substantial evidence of any wrongdoing, but the problem is that the reputation of individual enterprises gets jolted," it said.
Read More: Birla meets Chidambaram, says nothing's wrong
Video: Have nothing to hide, says PM
With inputs from Agencies