Arun Jaitley hauls P Chidambaram over coal
The Congress-BJP face-off over the CAG report on coal block allocation intensified on Saturday with Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley dismissing as “preposterous” finance minister P Chidambaram’s assertion that there had been no loss to the exchequer because no mining had been done. HT reports. Govt misleading the nation:Jaitleydelhi Updated: Aug 26, 2012 12:09 IST
The Congress-BJP face-off over the CAG report on coal block allocation intensified on Saturday with Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley dismissing as “preposterous” finance minister P Chidambaram’s assertion that there had been no loss to the exchequer because no mining had been done.
“The coal, which is a mineral under mother earth, now doesn’t belong to Mr Chidambaram’s government but to 142 private entrepreneurs,” said Jaitley, using Chidambaram’s own words to defend the UPA government to hit out at him.
“If someone takes out money from Chidambaram’s bank account, puts it in one’s own account but doesn’t encash it, will he (Chidambaram) assume he has not suffered a loss?” Jaitley asked.
“Once the coal blocks are allotted to private parties, the right to mine lies with them and not the government. Even without actual mining, the government has lost control over these mines,” he said.
The BJP leader said though the government allocated the mines to boost power production, “nobody has taken out even one kg of coal”. But their valuation in the market sky-rocketed. “If the finance minister still believes there was no loss, he is not the best custodian of India’s public exchequer,” he said.
Chidambaram countered Jaitley, saying the government had never talked of zero loss. “We did not say zero loss. We said there will be loss or gain only when coal is mined, not when there has been no mining in the 56 blocks,” he told PTI.
Chidambaram challenged the BJP to a discussion. “If the BJP has such a strong case, why debate the issue on television and not in Parliament?” he asked.
The CAG report said the government lost Rs. 1.86 lakh crore by allotting — and not auctioning — coal mines since 2004. The coal portfolio was then held by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The report has put the UPA government on the backfoot and held up the monsoon session of Parliament.
Jaitley made it clear the BJP won't compromise on its demand for Singh’s resignation. "Our strategy doesn’t permit that we allow the government to use Parliament to end this debate without any accountability. We want the debate at the national level to go further,” he said.
But former telecom minister Arun Shourie felt the Prime Minister should be allowed to make a statement on the issue and the Opposition was gaining nothing by stalling Parliament.