HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Updated: May 27, 2015 14:11 IST
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday rebutted the claims of an ex-chief of India’s telecom regulator that he knew of the scam in the allocation of 2G spectrum, saying he had not used public office to enrich himself or his family and friends.
In a tell-all book, Pradip Baijal alleged that the veteran Congress leader had threatened him with “harm” if he did not cooperate with policies that led to the multi-crore 2G scam in the telecom industry.
“I can say in all humility that I have not used my public office to enrich myself, enrich my family or to enrich my friends,” said Singh while inaugurating the two-day national convention of the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the students’ wing of the Congress party.
The former PM has come under intense criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other NDA allies over the allocations of 2G spectrum and also coal blocks. He has vehemently denied the charges.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top BJP leaders have repeatedly raked up corruption under the UPA rule to corner their rivals, and also made it the key plank ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Singh took a dig at the NDA government saying the current regime was harping on “corruption” in the UPA era because it wanted to divert people’s attention to non-issues.
“The BJP thinks the UPA was a corrupt government. I assure we will continue to fight corruption,” he told the gathering at Delhi’s Mavlankar Hall.
Singh, who was served summons to appear in a special court in connection with the coal scam earlier this year, said the ruling BJP’s trumpeting of an alleged policy paralysis during the Congress rule was misleading.
“Talk of policy paralysis is untrue. When our government left, India was the second fastest-growing economy. When we left office in 2014, in the past 10 years our economy grew at an average annual rate of 8.5%.”
At a recent rally in Agra marking the NDA government’s 100 days, Modi had once again highlighted the UPA’s policy paralysis and alleged corruption, asserting his government had ushered in ‘achche din’.
Attacking the Modi government, Singh said the institutions of democracy were under threat in the present rule.
“The Congress has tried to ensure that India flourishes. This idea is now under systematic assault,” he said.
Contradicting the Modi government’s claims, Singh said there was a ‘fragileness’ in economic recovery under the NDA government and slammed the government over its economic policies.
“We had launched many new programmes, new schemes. We had put in place many new policies. This had led to a profound social transformation and unprecedented economic growth as well,” he said.
“All is not well on the economy front. There is fragileness in economic recovery under the present government.”
Echoing former finance minister P Chidambaram’s assertion that the NDA government had repackaged UPA’s policies, Singh said, “What the BJP had opposed when we were in power are now being sold as its contribution.”
He added, “Many of our programmes are now being repackaged and marketed as initiatives of the Modi government. But this does not surprise us. This is the compliment the BJP could pay to the constructive work done by the UPA government.”
Reacting to Singh’s statement over the 2G scam, BJP president Amit Shah said that there was indeed a loss to the public exchequer and it was more than the CAG’s calculation.
“But I agree that the only responsibility of the PM is not indulging in corruption but also to stop others from being corrupt,” said Shah.
“Under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh, there was a scam of Rs 12 crore in this country and how can the Congress run away from accepting the responsibility.”
He also said that more than Rs 2 lakh crore has been added to nation’s treasury through the auction of 229 coal mines which shows that there was a huge loss under the previous regime.”