Manmohan Attacks CAG, BJP Insists On His Resignation
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday attacked the official auditor for suggesting huge presumptive losses from coal blocks allocation and said allegations of impropriety hurled against him were baseless.
But a combative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) insisted that the prime minister should take moral responsibility for the presumptive Rs.1.86 lakh crore ($37 billion) loss and resign.
With parliament paralysed for a week, Manmohan Singh sought to defend himself and his government in both houses of parliament, but the BJP again shouted him down. He then laid a statement on the table. “As the minister in charge, I take full responsibility for the decisions. I wish to say that any allegations of impropriety are without basis and unsupported by facts,” he said, adding, “The facts … show that the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) findings are flawed on multiple counts. The premise of the CAG is flawed. The observations of the CAG are clearly disputable.”
Later, speaking to the media outside parliament, Manmohan Singh said parliament was not being allowed to function “and BJP is determined to disrupt normal functioning of parliament”. He said, “We have a strong and credible case. They (CAG) will be challenged when the matter comes before the PAC (Public Accounts Committee).”
PMO sources justified the attack saying it related to a particular report on a particular issue and not the institution or the person itself. Finance Minister P Chidambaram said “Not discussing in parliament is a slap on the face of people who elect us.”
The Congress said the CAG report was beyond its mandate and that the people will see through the BJP’s game. Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal argued no coal blocks were allocated after 2009 when the UPA-II came to power.
The BJP was unrelenting.
Alleging kickbacks in the allocation of 142 coal blocks, BJP’s Sushma Swaraj told the media: “We want him to accept moral responsibility. The PM is responsible for the revenue loss. That is why we want him to go.”
She said all the coal blocks allocated without auction to private and state-run firms should be cancelled and these should be auctioned afresh.
She alleged that the Congress had made “mota maal” (big money) from the allocation, pointing out that 142 coal blocks were given away in just four years (2006-10) compared to 70 over a 12-year period (1993-2005). “This may be the BJP’s tradition…we challenge them to give proof or take back their words,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
BJP’s Arun Jaitley asked the government to cancel all 142 coal blocks that were given away mainly to private parties and auction them afresh. “Only then will the truth or otherwise of the PM’s statement be known. In the 2G case, history vindicated CAG,” he said of the second generation spectrum scandal.
Although the BJP’s insistence that the prime minister should resign does not have the backing of the entire opposition, his comments Monday seemed to unify the opposition parties.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) also asked the government to axe all allocations found faulty by the CAG and auction them. The Congress and its allies again asked the BJP to give up its stand and let parliament function.
Law Minister Salman Khurshid said the BJP was unreasonable in demanding the prime minister’s resignation.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury refuted Manmohan Singh’s claim that states like West Bengal wanted the coal blocks to be allotted and not auctioned.
With the BJP not ready for a compromise and the Congress taking an aggressive stand, parliament is expected to remain crippled well until the monsoon session ends Sep 7.
The BJP denied it was isolated on the issue. “But if we have to fight it out alone, we will be do it. It would be a majestic isolation because popular opinion would always be with us,” said Jaitley.
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