But neither party answered questions they flung at each other
The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party rained questions on each other over Coalgate on Thursday, even as Parliament wound down to the penultimate day of the washed out monsoon session.
On Wednesday, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh had posed a set of eight questions to the BJP on its alleged role in facilitating Coalgate. The questions pertained to letters written by BJP Chief Ministers to the Centre opposing competitive bidding in coal block allocation; the CAG’s indictment of a BJP-ruled State for a controversial allotment allegedly made to a party Rajya Sabha MP; the personal attacks on the CAG by previous BJP Central Ministers and so forth.
On Thursday, the BJP’s Prakash Javdekar came up with his own questions to the Congress and the government. He said he was astounded that the Congress could question the BJP on Coalgate when its own guilt in the scam was clearly established. The whole world is asking the Congress about Coalgate and they are asking us questions,” he said.
Mr. Javdekar asked if it was not a fact that while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh initiated the policy of competitive bidding, the PMO itself had subsequently opposed competitive bidding.
Further, as the then Coal Minister, did the Prime Minister not append his signature to every coal block allocation? If he did, was he not directly responsible for the scam?
The BJP spokesperson asked the Congress to answer the charge that 1700 crore tonnes of coal had been given away for free by UPA-I.
Neither the Congress nor the BJP answered the barrage of questions they flung at each other. The Congress, which over the past week has sent out its top Ministers to address the daily press conference, deputed Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sabil on Thursday to pose some more questions to the BJP. Mr. Sibal wanted to know how Arun Jaitley could claim that holding up Parliament had brought benefits to the country. He said this amounted to elevating denigration of Parliament to an ideology. “How can the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabhs denigrate Parliamentary democracy by stating that because the government is in a majority, Parliament must be made dysfunctional?” Accusing the BJP of duplicity and hypocrisy, Mr. Sibal said, in December 2001 the same Mr. Jaitley had charged the Congress with stalling Parliament and refusing to participate in discussions over the CAG’s report on the purchase of metal caskets for the martyrs of the Kargil war. Mr. Sibal quoted Mr. Jaitley as saying then that “the Opposition parties will not stand anywhere if the issue is discussed threadbare in Parliament.”
The Minister quoted Mr. Jaitley as also saying that if there were lapses, these would be corrected. Mr. Sibal asked the BJP to adopt Raj dharma instead of Rajneeti dharma (uphold morality instead of playing politics).
“This is so ironic. We are saying exactly the same today. Is this principled politics? The BJP knows that if a discussion is held on the Coal block allocation, the party will be badly exposed.”