The Minister rules out cancellation of allotment of coal blocks

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said on Sunday that the BJP’s stand on the coal blocks issue hinged on misinformation and disinformation campaigns that would ultimately harm national interests.

Addressing a “Meet the Press” programme organised by the Chandigarh Press Club, the local MP said efforts by various UPA leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, were on to convince the BJP of the need for accepting a discussion on the issue under any rule of Parliament.

He said 71 per cent of the time of the ongoing monsoon session had already been lost due to disruptions by the BJP. Even as he rejected the BJP’s demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr. Bansal said the government would not cancel any coal block whose allocation was made as per norms. The allocation of 57 coal blocks for captive mining involved an investment of Rs. 15 lakh crore and India could not afford to give out a message that its government was erratic and the investments made in the country were not safe. “The government has a responsibility to perform, which the Opposition does not,” he said. Stressing that general elections would be held as per schedule in 2014, Mr. Bansal claimed that in view of the internal feud in the BJP its present misinformation drive would not last long.

He alleged that while the BJP leadership was fully aware of the reality on the coal blocks allocation, it was attempting to mislead the people to make political capital during the coming Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

“They were desperately attempting to tarnish the image of the Prime Minister to prevent the UPA from securing a third consecutive tenure in power at the Centre.”

Responding to questions, the Minister said the Congress fully respected that the Comptroller and Auditor General was mandated to point out flaws in the functioning of the government, but it was not empowered to comment on policy matters.

He cited observations made by the then NDA Ministers, Arun Shourie and Arun Jaitley, who had questioned the methodology adopted by the CAG in working out notional losses during the coffin scandal. Mr. Bansal claimed that in the coal blocks allocation issue, the CAG had overlooked vital technical issues such as calorific value of coal extracted from the pits.

The CAG report had serious shortcomings, which need to be discussed in Parliament and the correct picture placed before the people. “It is not like lifting the lid of a pot and serving soup.”

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