Congress president Sonia Gandhi led a march of top party leaders to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence on Thursday in a strong show of solidarity after a special court summoned him in a coal scam case.
Gandhi’s first ever march, covering a distance of around one kilometre, was aimed at sending a strong message not only to political opponents but also party colleagues that she was behind the former PM in the crisis.
“We are outraged. We offer our unstinted support and we shall fight this not only legally but with all means at our command. He is known not just in India but throughout the world as a person of integrity and probity. We have no doubt whatsoever that he will be vindicated,” the 68-year-old Gandhi said.
Singh, accompanied by his wife, received top Congress leaders at his residence, where he was greeted warmly by Gandhi and several former cabinet colleagues, including P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma and Veerappa Moily.
A special CBI court judge summoned the 82-year-old former PM, ex-coal secretary PC Parakh and four others on Wednesday, saying “some acts of their omission and commission, though not all, show their complicity in the conspiracy”.
The judge directed Singh and others to appear before his court on April 8 to answer charges of criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and corruption, saying the former PM – who also held the coal portfolio between 2004 and 2009 – could not claim ignorance due to his office.
This made Singh the second former PM to be summoned by a trial court as an accused after PV Narasimha Rao stood trial on charges ranging from bribery to forgery.
Singh said he was grateful to top Congress leaders for rallying behind him. “I have always said I am open for legal scrutiny. I am sure the truth will prevail and I will get a chance to put forward my case with all facts and prove my total innocence,” he said.
The Congress party too came out strongly in defence of the former PM, saying his “integrity, fairness, impartiality and adherence to transparency” remained unquestionable.
Video: Sonia backs ex-PM Manmohan