The BJP on Saturday took serious exception to the comments made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the media on his way back from the NAM Summit that he would not get into a slanging match with the Opposition on the coal blocks allocation issue.

Responding to Dr. Singh’s comments, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “If the people have given you the mandate to govern they have also made the Opposition the custodian of their interest and we shall continue to safeguard that whether you call it ‘tu-tu main main’ or seek solace in your silence by reciting a Urdu couplet.”

The BJP has been insistent on its demand for the resignation of Dr. Singh (who was in-charge of the Coal Ministry when the allotments were made) and cancellation of the allotment of 142 coal blocks made from 2006.

The admission by Union Tourism Minister that he had written to the Prime Minister seeking his “intervention” for allotment of two coal blocks to a company, in which his brother is an honorary executive director has given the BJP additional leverage.

At a news conference on Friday, Mr. Sahai confirmed that he wrote to the Prime Minister on February 4, 2008 on behalf of the company and the PMO forwarded it to the Coal Ministry on February 6 for appropriate action.

The Minister further confirmed that on February 7, 2008, his brother participated in the meeting of the Screening Committee on Coal Block Allotments. He refused to answer despite repeated questions whether he had informed the Prime Minister that his brother was associated with the company he was commending for allocation.

At his news conference, Mr. Sahai insisted that there was no impropriety on his part and there was no question of his resignation.

Meanwhile, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, announcing the departure of Congress president Sonia Gandhi abroad for a ‘routine medical check-up,’ said she was expected to return in a week after a routine medical check-up. Last year Ms. Gandhi had surgery for an undisclosed ailment.

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