M A I N   N E W S

Coal storm hits Parliament
* BJP wants Prime Minister to quit, govt defends him
* Houses adjourned amid uproar
Vibha Sharma & Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, August 21
Putting into action its plan to corner the government, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in particular, over the CAG report on coal block allocation, the Opposition BJP did not allow Parliament to function on Tuesday morning, rejecting offers by the ruling party for a discussion on the report.

The BJP determinedly targeted the government on the “coalgate scandal” (as it has decided to christen the report), demanding nothing less than the PM’s resignation over his “role” in allocation of coal blocks when he was in-charge of the Coal Ministry, a charge that was contemptuously rejected by the Congress.

The government offered a discussion with Leader of the Lok Sabha Sushil Kumar Shinde, saying, “We can discuss the issue. We have no objection.” But the demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation was termed as “preposterous and baseless” by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who accused the BJP of “trying to make an issue out of nothing. “Let them have a discussion,” he said.

The ruling party also asked the BJP to be patient and wait for a discussion on the report in the Public Accounts Committee, which is expected to adopt the report at a meeting scheduled for August 24.

But unrelenting on its demand for the PM’s resignation both inside and outside Parliament, the BJP ensured that functioning of both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha remained stalled for the day. They said the “PM’s role” was not a matter that could await examination by the PAC.

The Left stopped short of demanding the PM’s resignation, saying it was for Manmohan Singh to take the decision. “The PM has a moral responsibility. On the issue of resignation, we leave it to his conscience," CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said.

Amid the din, the two Houses which met for the first time since the CAG report was tabled on Friday, were first adjourned till 12 noon. While the Lok Sabha met again for a brief while only to be adjourned till Wednesday, the Rajya Sabha got a breather as the Elders got together to unanimously elect and felicitate Congress member PJ Kurien as Deputy Chairman of the House.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government was ready for any discussion and would give satisfactory answers to all issues raised. "We are ready for any debate," he told reporters after Parliament was adjourned for the day because of the uproar created by the Opposition. "We can give satisfactory answers to all issues being raised," the Prime Minister said.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report said a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh had been caused due to non-transparent allocation of 57 captive coal blocks to private parties between 2004 and 2009. While the government is sure of weathering the “coal storm”, the Opposition is sensing a winner with another 2G-like weak spot for the Congress-led UPA.

The ruling party has vehemently rejected the CAG findings, terming it a bizarre accounting exercise with Minister for State in PMO V Narayanasamy questioning the CAG’s propriety in questioning the policy of the Government. “Their job was to only do the accounting. It is a provisional report, not an indictment of the government. Several CAG reports were filed during the NDA regime. Did they resign?” he asked.

CBI may File multiple FIRs

The CBI is likely to register more than one FIR in the alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks after it came across several cases of violation of norms by state government officials and allottees. The agency has already questioned senior bureaucrats who were overseeing allocation of coal blocks during 2006-09, CBI sources said. It is also taking into cognisance the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the scam.— Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister

Ready for Debate, says Manmohan

We are ready for any debate. We can give satisfactory answers to all issues being raised. — Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister







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