x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Singh says has 'nothing to hide' in telecom scandal

India's premier has been battling to protect his image against accusations of failing to act over the government¿s cut-price sale of mobile telephone licences in 2008.

India's premier Manmohan Singh said he had "nothing to hide" as he offered to be quizzed by a parliamentary panel over a multi-billion-dollar telecom scandal that has shaken his government.

Mr Singh, who enjoys a reputation for honesty amid India's murky political world, has been battling to protect his image against accusations of failing to act over the government's cut-price sale of mobile telephone licences in 2008.

"I have nothing to hide from the public at all," Mr Singh declared at a Congress party strategy meeting, adding he would write to the chairman of parliament's public accounts committee agreeing to appear before it.

He said being questioned by the committee would silence critics and opposition parties who have demanded a cross-party investigation into the sale of second-generation (2G) licences.

Mr Singh said his offer was intended to clear the air and ensure that the prime minister was "above suspicion".

As premier since 2004, "I may have made mistakes" but "I have tried to serve my country," said Mr Singh, 78, an academic who spearheaded India's economic liberalisation in the 1990s when he was finance minister.

He has repeatedly refused opposition demands for the cross-party probe into the scandal, which paralysed parliament for the entire winter session, saying other independent investigations were probing the allegations.

Mr Singh has been accused of failing to intervene when his telecoms minister, A. Raja, sold the 2G licences for a fraction of their value, losing the country up to $40 billion according to the national auditor.

There is no suggestion Mr Singh benefited personally from the sales to allegedly preferred bidders. But critics have accused Mr Singh of turning a blind eye for the sake of political expediency -- Raja's regional DMK party is needed by Congress to shore up its coalition.

Mr Singh's statement came a day after party president Sonia Gandhi, the powerbroker of Indian politics who tapped him to be premier in 2004, said the party must display "zero" tolerance of corruption to survive.