Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday led the counterattack on charges of impropriety against his government in coal block allocation, branding the state auditor's findings as "clearly disputable" and "flawed on multiple counts".
Though Singh sought to initiate a debate on the alleged loss of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore as the government chose to allocate coal blocks instead of auctioning them, it degenerated into a bitter slugfest between the government and the BJP.
Singh was forced to table his 32-point statement in both houses of Parliament as the BJP members did not allow him to speak.
Singh said he took full responsibility for the decisions of the coal ministry, which he held between 2005 and 2009.
The PM also said that the allegations were "without basis and unsupported by the facts".
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the media at Parliament House in New Delhi. PTI
But Sushma Swaraj, leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, later accused the Congress - leader of the ruling UPA - of receiving "mota maal (big money)".
Besides seeking the PM's resignation, the BJP demanded that the allocation of 142 coal blocks be cancelled.
Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley address a press conference regarding PM's statement on coal row in New Delhi. HT/Arvind Yadav
The government promptly rejected both the demands, maintaining that it had initiated action to cancel the allocations of those who did not commence production in the allocated blocks.
Finance minister P Chidambaram took serious exception to the use of the phrase, "mota maal".
"If you can accuse the UPA government of receiving 'mota maal', what about the allocations made between May 1998 and May 2004 (during the NDA rule). They should avoid (making) sweeping allegations."
Singh, who leaves for a three-day visit to Iran on Tuesday, appealed to the Opposition to agree on a debate.
"Once again I appeal to the opposition to come back to the House to debate all these issues and let the country judge where the truth lies," he said.
But the BJP rejected his appeal and claimed the support of its NDA allies - SAD, JD(U) and Shiv Sena - and parties such as the AIADMK in its demand for the PM's resignation on moral grounds.
"We don't stand alone. And on corruption, even if we have to fight alone, it would be majestic isolation. The support of the people is with us," said Arun Jaitley, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha.
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