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PM offers to resign if corruption charges against him proved

Aditi Phadnis  |  On Board PM's Special Aircraft 

A visibly disturbed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday offered to resign, quit public life and said he was ready for “any punishment” decided by the people if charges of corruption against him were proved. He also slammed ‘uninformed’ criticism and charges against him and his ministerial colleagues.

“If I have done any beimaani (dishonesty)… in my entire public career… my Rajya Sabha seat… if there is even an iota of truth in the harsh words (what they have used), then I am ready to give up public life,” he told reporters on board the special aircraft returning from Myanmar.

“My entire public life, in financial institutions, as MP of the Rajya Sabha, as leader of the Opposition is an open book. To use such harsh words…but the public of India must decide once for all if this sort of politics is any politics,” the PM said and left the press conference immediately.

Though he took no names, he was responding to criticism by civil society activists Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal — who have released a list of 14 ministers, including the PM, demanding investigation into charges of alleged corruption.

Earlier, the PM had read out a prepared text, released by Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, denying all charges of corruption based on the leak of a draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

His offer to resign came spontaneously at the tail end of the press conference, and he followed no written script, apparently going by gut instinct and emotion, when he was asked a tentative question about the language the civil society activists had used. He was in good humour and when asked if he had any plans to move to Rashtrapati Bhavan, he said “I am happy where I am” to guffaws from foreign minister S M Krishna sitting beside him.

Earlier, the PM said the depreciation of the rupee was a cause for concern, but not unduly so, because countries around the world were facing currency depreciation due to the euro zone crisis. “The euro zone crisis has made FIIs and FDI investors hesitant to go out, especially to emerging markets. I believe this phenomenon is not going to last long,” he said to a question about whether India would see a recurrence of the 1991 economic crisis in view of the depreciating rupee, hike in oil prices though international prices of the commodity were relatively stable, and falling FDI levels. “We are nowhere near the 1991 situation, but I do concede that it (present situation) is worrying. Other countries like South Africa are facing a similar situation,” he said, adding countries were coming to terms with the situation and the G20 meeting in Mexico would discuss how to better manage the problem.

The PM said he was very satisfied with the trip, and the President of Myanmar had assured him no one engaged in anti-India activities would be given shelter on that country’s land.

When asked about the statements made by Chief of Army Staff, General V K Singh, and why the government was not responding to them, the PM said with a smile, “Sometimes, silence is golden.”

His mood changed immediately after.

First Published: Wed, May 30 2012. 00:49 IST