India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke out against new allegations of corruption on Tuesday, telling reporters that he would quit his post and resign from public life if there is "any iota of truth" to claims that he tampered with the allotment of coal mining leases.
“My career as finance minister, leader of opposition and Prime Minister has been an open book. I will give up my public career if there is any iota of truth in such allegations,” Singh told reporters on his way home from Yangon at the end of a three-day visit to Myanmar, according to the Indian Express.
Earlier this week, anti-corruption activists led by Anna Hazare requested a separate investigating agency be formed to investigate cases related to corruption charges against 15 government ministers, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, NDTV reported.
The charges were based on portions of a draft Comptroller and Auditor General report that they allege reveals irregularities in the allotment of coal mines, including during a period when the prime minister was responsible for the coal ministry, the TV channel said.
In response to criticism, Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan told Times Now TV that the accusations were not irresponsible, and he welcomed a defamation suit (which in India would surely embroil the prime minister in embarrassing litigation for more than a decade).
"I don't think that allegations against the prime minister were irresponsible. He held the portfolio of coal when the major scam happened," Bhushan told Times Now channel, MSNBC writes.
The prime minister was in charge of the coal portfolio from November 2006 to May 2009. According to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), mining rights for coal blocks were allocated without auctioning them and this led to massive profits for some chosen private firms, the website reports.
Singh's government has been under fire for alleged corruption -- which hardly began with his election -- since his second term began in 2009. The resulting "policy paralysis," however, has perhaps been more damaging to the Indian economy than its endemic problems with graft.