Let SIT probe coalgate, says Jaitley; Parliament will be kept running to expose BJP: Congress
The BJP and the Congress tried to outwit each other on Monday even as disruptions and adjournments once again brought Parliament to a standstill.
The day started with enough and more clarity on the BJP’s stand: It was not going to budge an inch from its demand that the Prime Minister resign accepting responsibility for coalgate. The party said as much to its own allies and other parties at a meeting called by Speaker Meira Kumar. Senior leader Sushma Swaraj told the press that matters had reached a stage where the BJP was no longer bothered about being isolated on the issue of discussing the coal block allotment. “Our allies are with us. Even if they are not, we will fight alone.”
The BJP’s intransigence led to speculation that the government may push for a sine die adjournment of the House or turn the tables on the BJP by opting for a confidence motion knowing it had the numbers to pull off a victory.
The “confidence motion” rumour started off in the morning and picked up momentum following an informal briefing by an official of the government. However, senior Ministers P. Chidambaram and Pawan Kumar Bansal, as well as Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, rubbished the talk saying it was up to the BJP to bring a no-confidence motion. “Why should we do anything?” They also made it clear that Parliament would be kept running “if only to expose the BJP as an irresponsible party.”
That the BJP had thought out its strategy was clear enough. The party refused to heed its principal allies, the JD(U) and the Akali Dal, on allowing the Prime Minister to speak. Indeed, the tone and tenor of Ms. Swaraj and Arun Jaitley at a press conference suggested that they were not looking for an exit route from the stand-off with the government.
Ms. Swaraj and Mr. Jaitley attacked the government by turns.
“The Congress has got a fat sum (mota maal) from coal block allocation that is why this delay [in amending the laws] was caused. My charge is that huge revenue was generated but it did not go to the government and went to the Congress party,” Ms. Swaraj said.
Mr. Jaitley said coal block allocation was better off being probed by a Special Investigation Team as the track record of agencies such as the CBI did not inspire confidence.
Both of them took exception to the Prime Minister passing on the blame to the States for non-implementation of the auction route and said it had become a habit with Dr. Singh to blame others for his faults.
“If an independent inquiry is held into the policy of competitive bidding, Congress leaders will be found guilty. The only thing that is heartening in the PM’s statement is that he has taken responsibility. We want him to take moral responsibility and that is why we want him to resign,” Ms. Swaraj said.
Added Mr. Jaitley: “The UPA tried to subvert a constitutional authority and when it did not succeed, it attacked it. This is shameful defiance of ethics in governance and polity.”
Mr. Jaitley alleged ulterior motives behind the government’s decision to delay the implementation of competitive bidding. “The government kept sending this decision into a spiral — a small amendment took two years. When it was passed it took another 17 months to notify. Anticipating that there would be a change in regime, you opened the floodgates and allocated 142 coal blocks.”