Sushma Swaraj is expected to hold a meeting of the larger Opposition on Monday

The deadlock over Coalgate entered the third day on Thursday amid indications that a settlement could be reached early next week between the government and the Opposition on holding a discussion on the issue in Parliament.

The Left parties have decided to meet on Saturday to finalise their position. On Monday, Sushma Swaraj is expected to hold a meeting of the larger Opposition.

Outwardly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remained unyielding on its stand that it would keep Parliament dysfunctional until the Prime Minister agreed to resign owning responsibility for the scam. Party MPs raised noisy slogans against Manmohan Singh and forced repeated adjournments of the two Houses. And yet by evening it was increasingly clear that the party was losing support on its strategy and the rest of the Opposition — including members of the NDA— was veering round to accepting the government’s offer to discuss the issue. The growing view appeared to be that disrupting Parliament would allow the Prime Minister to get away, whereas it was far more important to pin him down and force him to answer questions on the serious charges he faced.

CPI (M) seeks probe into charges

The JD(U) indicated on Wednesday that it favoured a discussion on the subject. On Thursday, the party kept its distance as the BJP MPs stormed the well of the Lok Sabha. In a statement, the CPI demanded an explanation from Dr. Singh, saying it was for the first time that a Prime Minister faced charges of corruption with regard to a Ministry that was under his charge. The CPI(M) asked for an investigation into the charges followed by fixing of responsibility and prosecution of the guilty, “however high” they turned out to be. The Janata Dal (S) condemned the continued obstruction of Parliament. All of this left the BJP virtually isolated on the best way to deal with Coalgate.

The BJP was also on the back foot over reports that it planned to have its MPs resign en masse to force an early general election. Party spokesperson Yashwant Sinha strongly denied the “rumours” but the damage appeared to have been done. BJP MPs seemed shocked at the prospect of losing their seats almost two years ahead of schedule. A party veteran and Lok Sabha MP sarcastically commented that the idea must have originated in the Rajya Sabha whose members were not obliged to resign. “Let them resign first, we will all follow suit,” he said.

The Congress seemed to enjoy the BJP’s discomfiture. A senior Cabinet Minister said the BJP had indeed considered mass resignations but had to drop the move fearing the wrath of its MPs. “If they want to resign, let them. We will be quite happy to hold by-elections for all their seats,” the Minister said. The Congress also indicated that it was fully prepared for a debate on Coalgate as that would give the party an opportunity to turn the tables on the BJP whose State governments had opposed competitive bidding in the allocation of coal blocks.

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