Coal files: First offence, now defence, was PM Singh buying time?

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New Delhi, Sept 3: The other day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in the Rajya Sabha that he is not the custodian of files and lashed out at the Opposition, after getting hurt by the 'thief' slogan. On Tuesday, the prime minister told the Upper House that all the missing files will be traced and handed over to the CBI within the time frame set by the Supreme Court of India. He also asked the people not to make any hasty conclusion on the missing files.

The cornered politician in Singh is clearly visible from these two statements. On the first day, he makes a counter-offence against the Opposition's attack but when that doesn't work (for he has lost his credibility), he choses to go on the defence and buys time. Singh will be on his way to Russia for the G-20 Summit on Wednesday and that means the two-week time that he has sought to trace the files will meet an uncertain future. Nice way to dodge the responsibility, Mr Prime Minister.

If the PM is so sure about tracing the files now, why was he silent all along?

The Congress is more interested in taking on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over a fake encounter case and has sought the latter's resignation but there is no mention about the missing files from any quarter of the party, which is an issue of national importance.

The party is perhaps feeling jittery with the news that Modi could be announced as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate this month and might struggle to do the catching up game once the Gujarat chief minister begins to race ahead with his election campaign. The Congress has no face to project as its candidate for the top post for while Rahul Gandhi has failed to grow an appetite for the top post, Singh has only symbolised failure.

Why has the prime minister asked the opposition not to draw a hasty conclusion on the missing coal files issue now? If he was so sure about his government's recovering the files in two weeks, why didn't he say this while addressing the House last Friday? Or was he waiting for the parliamentary session to get over so that he could get a breather? He said on Tuesday that over 1,50,000 pages of documentation have already been handed over to the CBI. On Friday, he was counter-attacking saying he is not the custodian of the files. One gets a feeling is that the prime minister is indeed batting like a nightwatchman to save the day for his government.

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