In a show of support to former PM Manmohan Singh, who has been summoned as an accused by a special CBI court in connection with the allocation of a coal block in Orissa, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday led a rare march with the whole party top brass from AICC headquarters to Singh’s residence.
The unusual display of support to Singh, the only PM outside Nehru-Gandhi family to have completed two full terms in office, was planned by Sonia herself. She summoned members of Congress working committee and its 110-odd MPs and asked them to join the march to 3, Motilal Nehru Place, Singh’s residence.
Top Congress leaders A K Antony, P Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Anand Sharma, Mallikarjun Kharge, M Veerappa Moily, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Ambika Soni participated in the march. Singh, with wife Gursharan Kaur by his side, greeted the leaders with folded hands and a smile.
Sonia said: “I was outraged at the news that summons had been served to Dr Manmohan Singh. Our former PM is known not only in our country but throughout the world as being a person of integrity and probity. We are here to offer our unstinted support, our solidarity. We shall fight this legally and with all other means at our command. We are sure that he will be vindicated”.
Singh said he was “more than pleased and grateful” for the support. “The Congress party, Soniaji and all members of the working committee and senior leaders have come to my residence, expressed solidarity with me,” he said.
Sonia’s move did not surprise many since she stood by Singh when he was PM and even after he demitted office. She had directed Congressmen, crestfallen after the party’s dismal show in Lok Sabha polls, not to attack Singh.
Former finance minister Chidambaram said no one can impeach Singh’s integrity. “He and his lawyers will answer the questions. His position will be vindicated and I am confident that the court itself will drop the charges,” he said.
He attacked the BJP government, questioning its silence.
“I have a question for the government. If it believes that the CBI is truly independent and, in this case, has come to an independent and bonafide conclusion exonerating Dr Singh, then why does the government not come out with a statement that it supports the conclusion of the CBI? That would be the proper thing to do,” he said.
Anand Sharma expressed confidence that truth would emerge as Singh was above even “the shadow of suspicion”.
Moily said issuing summons against the former PM was a total “miscarriage of justice”.
“If Singh, a man known in India and world over for his integrity, has to be lined up before a court in a corruption case, perhaps there is no rule of law in this country. And it is a total miscarriage of justice. Twice the CBI has said no offence is made up in the case,” Moily added.
Former law minister Azad said innocent persons like Singh cannot be bulldozed by law.
“It can happen in any other country where there is no rule of law. Not in India,” he said, adding: “We have full faith in the country’s judiciary”.