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Govt, Oppn coal war heats up

delhi Updated: Sep 04, 2012 01:47 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
P Chidambaram

The government on Monday firmly rejected the BJP's demand for the immediate and summary cancellation of 142 captive coal block allocations.

Finance minister P Chidambaram and coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said the allocations cannot be cancelled just because the CAG report stated that they caused a loss of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer.

No coal block allocation can be cancelled until the inter-ministerial group (IMG) - constituted to review the issue - submits its report around September 15, Chidambaram said.

Describing the demand for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation as "outrageous", Chidambram ruled out an independent judicial probe into the issue. "The demand for cancellation of all 142 coal blocks allocated after 2004 is not founded on sound logic... It (cancellation) cannot be done through diktat or arbitrary orders. There is a procedure for it, and that procedure is underway."

Responding to this, Rajya Sabha leader of opposition Arun Jaitley said the BJP will persist with its demand for cancellation of blocks and a probe, which are the "bare minimum steps" required to be taken by the government for conducting a discussion in Parliament.

Jaitley also attacked the PM for refusing to resign and not cancelling the coal blocks allocated during the time he held the coal portfolio. If no answers are given, then people are entitled to presume that no answers could have been given, he said.

Elaborating on the issue, he said, "The Prime Minister has invoked his right to silence. The right to silence is available to an accused in court. It is not available to a PM who is the holder of the most accountable office. Accountability and silence cannot co-exist."

"Sushma Swaraj's offer to UPA chief Sonia Gandhi (for allowing the Houses to function after cancellation of blocks) provided an opportunity to the government to prove its bona fide and fairness," Jaitley said, denying a climbdown from the party's demand for the PM's resignation.

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