Keeping up its attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the alleged faulty allocation of coal blocks, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday said maintaining silence is a privilege not available to the head of government.
"The government has not given any response to the series of allegations in the coal allocation. The prime minister has invoked his right to silence... A right to silence is available to an accused in court, it is not available to a prime minister," leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley told a group of journalists in New Delhi.
The prime minister, in a statement read to media last Tuesday, had read a couplet saying his silence was better than answers.
"He is the holder of the most accountable office... accountability and silence cannot co-exist," Jaitley said.
The BJP leader was commenting on the ongoing protests in the allocation of coal blocks, which, according to a Comptroller and Auditor General report, cost the exchequer nearly $37 billion. Manmohan Singh was holding the coal ministry for a major period during which 142 coal mines were allocated.
"If no answer is given, then the people are entitled to presume that no answer could have been given," Jaitley said.
The BJP leader also asserted that there was no change in policy on demanding prime minister's resignation.
"There are two preconditions given for a debate in parliament. Two preconditions for debate does not mean the third issue is given up," Jaitley said.
The party has been demanding prime minister's resignation over the alleged scam. However, party leader Sushma Swaraj Saturday said BJP was ready to have discussion in parliament if the coal block allocations were cancelled and an independent probe ordered.
She also clarified later that she did not mean party has given up on the agenda to make prime minister resign.
Seeking to bolster the party's demand, Jaitley said: "In the course of the debate, if at all it had taken place, on account of this scandalous allocation, the MPs would have demanded a resignation."
"The dignity of prime minister's office will be protected and enhanced if he cancelled these allocations to come out clean and not by refusing to answer questions," he added.
Another party leader, meanwhile, told IANS the decision of letting down the barrier by not demanding prime minister's resignation before debate was taken to match tune with other opposition parties.
The Left, Samajwadi Party and Telugu Desam Party had formed a joint position on the issue, demanding independent probe and cancellation of allocations.
They had blamed the BJP of deliberately stalling parliament by putting a condition such as prime minister's resignation. However, by mellowing down its stance over conditions for a debate, BJP is now in tune with the demands made by other opposition party.
"The government, by rejecting the new idea of scrapping coal block allocation, has demonstrated it had a vested interest in continuing it arbitrary and discriminatory allocation," Jaitley added.
Party spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain had earlier said the fact that government was not agreeing to even these two demands of opposition showed it did not want the parliament to function.