Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will make himself available to the Central Bureau of Investigation in the coal-gate investigation if a formal request is made, Union minister Kamal Nath said on Sunday.
"Why not? The CBI under the law can question anybody and the PM is within the law. So if the CBI wants to question him, the PM is a part of the law," he said during an interview.
He was asked if the prime minister will make himself available for questioning if there is a formal request.
Nath said the PM has nothing to hide on the issue even though he held the coal ministry portfolio for a short period.
"If there is something to be asked from him, he has nothing to hide," he said, adding the PM’s "credentials will remain untouched".
He also dismissed the suggestion that the coal-gate episode would prove to be the 'Watergate' for the prime minister, saying the issue would prove to be the ‘Watergate’ for the opposition, which has brought many charges against him.
Strongly defending the prime minister on the issue of the missing coal files, he said there is no "malafide" in the files going missing.
Blaming the press for suggesting that the government is stonewalling the investigation, he said that it can be said that the files are missing only when it is confirmed that the files cannot be found at all.
"Fifteen days ago, some were found, some more were found later on and more will be found. There is no malafide in the files missing. If there is a malafide, there will be an FIR," he said.
Nath recalled the recent statement made by the PM -- appropriate action will be taken if the files are not found.
He also said the government would amend the RTI Act to keep political parties out of its purview and the bill for it has been sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
Asked if the government is committed to the Bill, he said, "We have introduced this Bill. We have taken it the Standing Committee".
On whether there are any second thoughts on the issue, he said, "At this time not."
Nath also made it clear that the government was not against the disclosure of the financial statement of the parties but it was against parting with information about their functioning.
"What was sought in the amendment was if you are to ask a political party why I was asked to contest from a constituency, why was so and so district Congress committee formed, this is what is not acceptable to us. What is fully available is the financial statement," he said.
He said the perception that legislators have something to hide is "absolutely wrong and false".
The minister said under RTI, one can get any information from the Election Commission.
He slammed the media for creating a perception that the PM lacks leadership qualities.
The media, he said, is being "unfair and uncharitable" to the PM.
Nath also dismissed the suggestion that the PM was unwilling and that he was forced into making statements on the state of the economy and the missing files due to the persistence of the opposition.