Opinion

Watch out for spin doctors

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Will the Opposition allow the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to give his version of the ‘Coalgate zero loss’ theory being advocated by his Cabinet Ministers and members of UPA?

Expectations are high that the Prime Minister may make a statement on the coal block allocation on Monday, if allowed to do so. He is scheduled to leave for Iran on August 28 to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit.

In fact, this week in Parliament will continue to be stormy, as the BJP is firm on not holding any discussions with the Government with regard to the smooth running of the House. The BJP leaders have made it clear that they will not heed even if the Prime Minister intervenes and talks to its party leaders. “The Monsoon session has gone,” is what they say. The session ends on September 8.

However, there is a possibility that the Question Hour could be suspended and a debate may start on the findings of the CAG report on coal block allocations.

It will be interesting to see how the Opposition reacts to the Supreme Court’s verdict that gave a clean chit to the Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, on the 2G issue.

Coal allocation process

The Prime Minister’s defence is expected to be on lines similar to what has been voiced by the Coal Minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal, and the Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram.

“If coal is not mined, where is the loss?”, they said on Friday.

“The intent behind allocation of coal blocks was to induce rapid development of infrastructure… by involving the private sector to invest in identified priority sectors so as to create additional capacities,” has been Government’s stand.

The Government is still trying to find a way out. The Speaker will call for a meeting of all parties to discuss the issue on Monday. The performance of captive coal blocks has been reviewed from time to time, with the last detailed review being held in January 2012. Based on the review, advisories were issued to allocatees of 58 coal blocks and 32 allocatees were cautioned. So far, 25 coal blocks have been de-allocated.

Besides, an inter-ministerial group has been constituted to review the situation.

In case the Prime Minister gets a chance to make a statement in Parliament on Monday, the UPA has armed itself with ‘evidence’ to show that the coal block allocation process was transparent.

States opposed move

Jaiswal has categorically said that there is ‘evidence’ to prove thatStates did not allow auctioning of coal blocks even when the Government, led by Congress at Centre, pushed for it.

The Government is ready to take on the Opposition with letters written by the then Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje; Chief Secretary of West Bengal, Asok Gupta; Chief Secretary of Chhattisgarh, K. Vijayavargiya; and Commissioner and Secretary to Government of Odisha, G. C. Pati; opposing the Centre’s move to introduce competitive bidding process.

Jaiswal has reiterated that it was the coal and lignite-bearing States of West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan that had opposed auctioning of mines. “The Centre cannot take decisions if the States do not agree,” he said.

These letters were written to the Prime Minister’s Office during March-July 2005.

The week will also see the CAG report on Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPP) being raked up. On a cautious note, the Power Minister has put on hold any move to review allocation of Chatrasaal coal block to Reliance Power’s Sasan UMPP.

If not the House, the Prime Minister may address the nation, before he leaves, is the buzz now.

Published on August 26, 2012

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