Sonia leads solidarity march to Manmohan Singh’s residence

Sonia leads solidarity march to Manmohan Singh's residenceNEW DELHI: The entire top Congress leadership including Sonia Gandhi today took to the streets to express solidarity with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been summoned as accused in a coal scam case, with the party President calling it “outrageous”.

Sonia Gandhi collected leaders at the party headquarters early in the morning and led a march to Singh’s residence about half a km away in the heart of the capital in which several of Singh’s cabinet colleagues P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma, Ambika Soni and Veerappa Moily were present.

The Congress leaders also attacked the government accusing it of maintaining a “studied silence” after the CBI had told the court that there was no criminality involved in the allocation of Talabira coal blocks II to Hindalco company of Aditya Birla group in Odisha in 2005 when Singh also held the portfolio of coal. Gandhi declared that they would fight the case with all legal and other means at their command

“I was outraged at the news that summons had been served to Manmohan Singh,” the Congress President said.

“The former Prime Minister 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.

“The Congress party 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,” she told reporters at Singh’s residence.

Singh, accompanied by his wife, received the leaders at the porch of his residence. The leaders greeted him warmly.

The former Prime Minister had yesterday expressed confidence that he will prove his innocence in a fair trial.

“Of course, I am upset but this is part of life. 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 the facts,” Singh had said.

A special court had summoned Singh along with industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, ex-coal secretary P C Parakh and three others as accused in a case pertaining to allocation of Talabira-II coal block in Odisha in 2005 and asked them to appear before it on April 8. . Singh evaded questions by the media as to how a political march by party leaders to his residence would help him in the case.

Gandhi also parried questions on how the march could help Singh in the matter.

Speaking to reporters, Chidambaram said he was confident that the summons against the former Prime Minister will stand withdrawn after some time.

“It is very difficult in view of the tragic silence of the BJP. The CBI is the executive arm of the government. The CBI has said that there is no change, no ground to take criminal action. But the government must speak up and say we stand by the CBI’s report.

“If the government believes in the independence of CBI and if CBI has already said that there is no criminal case, government must say they stand by the CBI’s report. Why is the government reluctant to do that,” the senior Congress leader said.

Anand Sharma expressed confidence that the truth would emerge as Singh was above “shadow of suspicion”.

“The former Prime Minister’s transparency, objectivity and honesty is above question. He is respected in India and across the world. We fully believe that whatever facts have been presented in front of him, his decisions have been transparent, correct and the truth would emerge,” he said.

Moily termed the summons against the former Prime Minister as a total “miscarriage of justice”.

“We have all come with over a 100 MPs and other members of CWC to express solidarity with him. Such a person, who has the highest reputation in public life, if he has to be lined up in front of courts, there is no law of land,” Moily said.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress leaders led by Sonia Gandhi gave Singh an assurance that the entire party was behind him and he should not feel that he was alone.

“We will fight this legally. We have full faith in the country’s judiciary,” he said.

Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha P J Kurien was at the party headquarters to express solidarity with the former Prime Minister but did not participate in the march.

This is perhaps for the first time that the top Congress brass has taken to the streets after the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections in May last year. Rahul Gandhi, who is on leave, was not present. Top Congress leaders who took part in the march include A K Antony, Ajay Maken, Mallikarjun Kharge, Renuka Chaudhary and Mani Shankar Aiyar.

Deepender Hooda, Jairam Ramesh, Rajiv Shukla and Ashwani Kumar also took to the streets to express solidarity with Singh.–PTI

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