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Indian gov't, opposition on warpath over coal scam
Publication Date : 22-08-2012
A prolonged confrontation seems to be on the cards between the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report on coal block allocations, with the National Democratic Alliance demanding the resignation of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
A combative opposition did not allow transaction of major business in both Houses of Parliament yesterday which were adjourned for the day in the afternoon well before the lunch recess.
The government rejected the demand for Singh’s resignation as “preposterous” and accused the opposition of “trying to make an issue out of nothing”.
The prime minister himself said the government is ready for a debate. “We are ready for any debate,” he told reporters, adding “We can give satisfactory answers to all issues being raised.”
“The House was adjourned as the BJP demanded the prime minister’s resignation over the coal scam... it is the demand of the nation as people are shocked to see the way the UPA is looting the country,” said BJP leader Prakash Javadekar.
The BJP parliamentary party held a meeting and later the party spokesman, Ravi Shankar Prasad, asserted that it would stick to its stand and hinted that the BJP would not allow Parliament to function.
The CAG report tabled in Parliament last Friday stated that there has been an estimated loss of 1.86 lakh crore rupees due to coal block allocations without auction. The Left parties differed with the parliamentary strategy of the BJP and insisted that the prime minister should make a statement and explain the government’s position on the CAG reports on the coal blocks and other issues.
“Let the PM make a statement and explain,” CPI leader D Raja said.
However, his party colleague and the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Gurudas Dasgupta, said the PM should take moral responsibility for the scam and listen to his “conscience” on it.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist has demanded that the prime minister explain to Parliament and the nation why “a modus operandi for transparent allocations” was not worked out.
The government and the Congress also offered discussions in Parliament with the home minister and Leader of the Lok Sabha, Sushilkumar Shinde, saying everything could be discussed. “We have no objection,” he said.
The Lok Sabha could not transact any business because of the unruly scenes, which first resulted in adjournment till noon and then for the day. The Rajya Sabha could function only to allow the unanimous election of Congress leader P J Kurien as Deputy Chairman of the House before it was adjourned for the day amid uproar.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said: “The opposition parties know that there is nothing. Still they are trying to create a situation.”
Law minister Salman Khurshid said there was “ample transparency” in the allocation process and it was done in a bona fide manner. “The screening committee (for coal block allocations) had participation of state governments. State governments’ recommendations formed the basis of allocations for coal blocks,” he said.
Human Resource Development minister Kapil Sibal said: “Our PM can never do anything wrong.” He said the coal-bearing states of Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress was not in power, had opposed allocation of coal mines to private firms through competitive bidding or auction.