Coal row: PM likely to make statement in Parliament today

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PM Manmohan Singh
New Delhi, Aug 27: The BJP has made it clear that the party is not ready to give up its offensive against the Prime Minister over CAG report on coal block allocation, the deadlock in Parliament over coal block allocations may continue on Monday.

According to reports, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to make a statement in the Parliament to end the deadlock and to clarify his stand over the issue of coal blocks allocation. It is also expected that the Lok Sabha Speaker may call an all-party meet to discuss the matter on Monday.

Accusing UPA government of being "arrogant and despotic", BJP leader Arun Jaitley has said the onus is on Prime Minister Minister Manmohan Singh to accept the responsibility for the "arbitrary and discretionary" allocation of 142 coal blocks.

In hard hitting comments, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha also said the Prime Minister's Office should be judged by standards "much harsher" than those which would apply to ministers like A Raja who had to resign over the controversial 2G spectrum license allocation.

Jaitley on Sunday said suggestions to debate the issue only in Parliament "will put a lid on one of the greatest scandals in Indian history."

"It has been suggested that since the Prime Minister himself was the coal minister, we should assume that this decision was fair. The Prime Minister's office is a sacred institution in Indian democracy. It has to be judged by standards much harsher than those which would apply to Ministers (Telecom) like Shri A Raja," Jaitley said in an article released by the BJP.

The BJP leader said that a debate is an essential ingredient of Parliament but so is accountability.

Jaitley said that if the process of allocation by the Prime Minister as a coal minister "smacks of arbitrariness it shakes our national conscience. The onus is now on the Prime Minister to accept the responsibility for what has happened."

"Suggestions that the issue should be debated only in the Parliament will put a lid on one of the greatest scandals in Indian history. We, in the Opposition, are not interested in merely the issue being talked out through a one-day debate in Parliament", he added.

In the article, titled "The Allocation of 142 Coal Blocks", Jaitley said, "The arbitrary and discretionary allocation of 142 coal blocks is the latest albatross round the neck of the UPA Government. The arrogant and despotic government did not realise when the allocations were made that it would be held accountable for each of these coal block allocations."

On the other hand, the government on Sunday night hit back at the BJP for defending obstruction in Parliament over CAG report on coal blocks allocation, saying the opposition was running away from discussion as it feared that the debate will boomerang on them.

"During their (NDA) regime, one can walk in with the recommendations of the state government and walk out with coal block allocations. UPA changed that through a transparent process of ascertaining eligibility of captive blocks for cement steel and power plants," Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told PTI.

Ridiculing BJP leader Arun Jaitley's contention justifying disruption of Parliament proceedings by terming it as a "rarest of rare cases", Bansal said that from day one of the last Lok Sabha when UPA came to power, obstruction has become the order of the day.

"Obstruction has not been an exception. It has now become a norm. And after making the reckless demand of resignation of the Prime Minister, the BJP did not realise what lay in the matter and that is why they are running away from the discussion," he said.

He also lamented that the main opposition was "totally oblivious" of the role and relevance of Parliament and were making obstructions when a heavy legislative agenda was before Parliament including some anti-corruption bills.

PTI

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