Govt says BJP states opposed coal block bid
The government today said that it was ready for a discussion on alleged scam in coal block allocation in Parliament and rejected the Opposition demand for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation. CAG punch | Opposition asks PM to resigndelhi Updated: Aug 21, 2012 19:35 IST
The government on Tuesday said that it was ready for a discussion on alleged scam in coal block allocation in Parliament and rejected the Opposition demand for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the Opposition demand was "preposterous and baseless" and that BJP was "trying to make an issue out of nothing".
"Let them come for a discussion... It is not right on their part. They know that there is nothing. Still they are trying to create a situation on an issue which is not there," he told reporters outside Parliament House.
Information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said, "When there is no proof to support their argument why do they demand this. In every session, the Opposition, specially BJP, keeps demanding the Prime Minister's resignation."
Hitting out at BJP, Bansal said, "What was the stand of BJP chief ministers when coal block allocation took place... BJP was also one of the parties...
"People must know the difference between truth and untruth, between myth and reality, between narrow party politics and critical economy. People ought to know it and then only they would know what was their (BJP) role, even in the matter of allocation of coal blocks," he said.
Minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) V Narayanasamy, two BJP-ruled states - Rajasthan under chief minister Vasundhara Raje and Chhattisgarh under chief minister Raman Singh - besides West Bengal under the Left Front government, had earlier written to the central government opposing the auction of coal blocks.
The minister further said that the states were kept in the loop in all coal block allocations as chief secretaries of the coal-bearing states were part of the screening committee, which included coal and power secretaries.
Narayanasamy charged the National Democratic Alliance government of giving away 24 coal blocks in 2003 arbitrarily without even inviting applications from private players.
He added that the United Progressive Alliance government followed due procedure of issuing advertisements and inviting applications before the screening panel gave approvals for the coal blocks.
He also attacked the Opposition for blocking Parliament over the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report on coal blocks and said the Opposition was shying away from a debate on the issue.
"Why is the Opposition shying away from a debate on the issue of coal block allocations? We are ready to discuss the issue," minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) V Narayanasamy said.
According to Narayanasamy, the CAG report would now be examined by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) headed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Murli Manohar Joshi.
Narayanasamy said the Opposition was trying to score political points by disrupting Parliament without waiting for the PAC report.
"This is only a presumptive loss (of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore) and not the actual figure," Narayanasamy said.
The minister came out against Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai and said: "The CAG cannot question the policies of the government. It can look only into the accounting part."
Lashing out at the government, Joshi said that it was an "all round unsuccessful tenure" for Congress-led UPA-II.
"Economy is in a bad shape, there are scams. Corruption is beyond any imagination. Ministers keep saying that there are losses, then they say losses are justified. So what do we do make out of it?," Joshi told reporters outside Parliament.
Joshi said, "On the one side you say the dignity of constitutional bodies should be maintained. It was said that PAC and CAG are the two bodies to ensure transparency in the country and keep an eye on corruption.
"Now if CAG says anything against you, then it is corrupt. If PAC brings out any report then it is trying to pull the government down. You (the government) are trying to put corruption under wraps," the BJP leader said.
Both Houses of Parliament were adjourned for the day following uproar over Opposition demand for the Prime Minister's resignation on CAG report on coal block allocation.
The first adjournments till noon took place soon after proceedings began in both the Houses with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Opposition seeking to raise the matter.
In Lok Sabha, trouble over the issue did not die down when the House met after the short adjournment with the Opposition rushing towards Speaker Meira Kumar's podium.
The government said the Opposition should let the House function and have a discussion on the issue.
The government offered a discussion in the House with home minister and Leader of the House Sushilkumar Shinde saying: "We can discuss the issue. We have no objection."
The speaker asked the Opposition if it agreed to the discussion but the slogans and shouting continued, forcing her to adjourn the House for the day.
There were similar scenes in Rajya Sabha, forcing chairperson Hamid Ansari to adjourn the House till noon.
When the House met, things were quiet for a while during which Congress member PJ Kurien was unanimously elected deputy chairman.
Members across party lines complimented Kurien for his election to the post.
However, soon after Kurien was invited by the chair to conduct proceedings in his new role, Opposition members again raised the issue of the CAG report on coal block allocation.
As the Opposition raised a din, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla said the government was ready for a discussion.
Shukla then said the BJP was running away from a discussion and that their chief ministers were involved in corruption.
As the Opposition members continued raising slogans, Kurien adjourned the House for the day.
"It is the demand of the nation as people are shocked to see the way the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) regime is looting the country," said BJP leader Prakash Javadekar.
India's official auditor had last week revealed that the lack of transparency in the allocation of coal blocks to private players resulted in a loss of a whopping Rs. 1.85 lakh crore ($37 billion) to the exchequer as on March 11 last year.
The audit report does not directly indict the Prime Minister or his office. But during the time these mining blocks in question were allotted, the coal portfolio was held by him -- between July 2004 and May 2009.
(With inputs from IANS, PTI)
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