NEW DELHI (TIP): Sonia Gandhi on March 12 morning led the Congress party in a solidarity march to the residence of Manmohan Singh who has been summoned as an accused in a coal-scam case, a move that sought to stub out doubts about the party’s support for the former prime minister as also make the populist point that an honest man was being targeted.
MANMOHAN TO MOVE SUPREME COURT
NEW DELHI (TIP): Manmohan Singh’s lawyers, led by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, are likely to move the Supreme Court to challenge the trial court’s order summoning the former PM as an accused in the alleged irregular allotment of Odisha’s Talabira II coal block to a joint venture of Hindalco. The option of moving Delhi HC to challenge the trial court decision, the normal course of grievance redressal in a three-tier justice delivery system, is ruled out because of a July 25, 2014 apex court order, which monitored the CBI probe into the alleged irregular coal block allotments during the UPA and previous NDA governments and cancelled all 214 allocations during that period. “We make it clear that any prayer for stay or impeding the progress in the investigation/trial can be made only before this court and no other court shall entertain the same,” the July 25 order said. Special Judge Bharat Parashar, trying the coal scam cases investigated by CBI under SC supervision in his summoning order focused on Singh’s role, not as PM but as coal minister.
Congress-bachao march’ can’t save them: BJP
NEW DELHI (TIP): The BJP on March 12 took a dig at Sonia Gandhi’s march in support of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and called it a
“Congress-bachao march”. The party said it was an attempt by those who participated in the march to save their skins as they were afraid that their role in the coal scam would now be exposed. Saying that it would be the “last nail in the coffi n of Congress”, BJP also hoped that Singh would now reveal what pressure he was under when coal blocks were “arbitrarily” allocated by the previous UPA government.
“Today’s march is a Congress-bachao march. Congress president Sonia Gandhi led it to save herself. A scared and worried Congress party is standing at (Singh’s) door out of fear that the truth will come out now. Everyone knows that Congress’s fi rst family was behind corruption. Allegations that corruption emanated during the Congress regime from the highest level will be proved once the truth comes out. Congress is trying to politicize the issue for its own political relevance,” BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
The Congress supremo, who dubbed the summons to the former Prime Minister as “outrageous”, gathered members of Congress Working Committee and MPs — a crowd of around 100 people — at the party’s 24, Akbar Road headquarters before setting off to Singh’s house on Motilal Nehru Marg through the leafy Lutyens zone — around half-a-km away.
Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur received the Congress delegation which comprised his former Cabinet colleagues P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma, Ambika Soni, Veerappa Moily among others, in what appeared a unique political event given the warm smiles in the sombre mood. The timing was politically significant as most of the gathering, minutes later, left for Parliament to attend the proceedings.
Manmohan Singh ‘grateful’
“I was outraged at the news that summons had been served to Manmohan Singh,” Sonia said, adding, “The former PM is known not only in our country but throughout the world as a person of integrity and probity. We are here to offer our unstinted support. Congress is fully behind him. We shall fight this legally and with all our means at our command. We are sure, we are convinced, that he will be vindicated.”
“I am more than pleased and grateful … the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi and all members of the CWC and senior leaders have come to my residence, expressed solidarity with me and that we will fight this case to the best of our ability,” Singh said. An MP quoted him as having told the delegation that there would not be a shadow of suspicion when the process ends.
The bonhomie was significant given the BJP’s attempt to draw a distinction between “corrupt Congress” and “honest Singh”.
The idea for the solidarity march emanated from Sonia at a meeting with confidants, leaders in Parliament and top in-house lawyers on March 11 evening.
While the plan initially was to limit the power walk to members of CWC, Sonia decided to scale it up because she wanted to soothe Singh who was feeling “pretty low”. The sight of party MPs and senior leaders marching in Lutyens zone was seen as an emphatic way to comfort the mascot of its decade in power.
Congress has desisted from pointing fingers at BJP because the CBI has already given a clean chit to Singh. However, Chidambaram questioned the Centre’s “tragic silence” on the summons while partymen found the timing of the summons intriguing as also the fact that the judicial order was too detailed for the summoning stage and that Section 319 of CrPC is also used sparingly.
There is an apprehension that it can all go awry. Despite assurances from the BJP regime that there will be no vindictiveness on its part, there is a fear that any sympathy in government will be circumscribed by BJP’s compulsion to protect its narrative on corruption and scams under UPA.
The saffron camp has been a major beneficiary of the allegations of scams, evident in the way they swept the 2014 elections. This may inhibit the Centre from going too far in helping the accused in the coal scam in whatever way it can if it wants to.