Turning up the heat on the issue of coal block allocation, the BJP on Friday said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should clarify as he was holding the coal portfolio during the period when the alleged scam took place.

“More than 90 coal blocks with the coal reserve of 17 billion metric tons (bmt) worth Rs 51 lakh crore were allotted to more than 140 private companies during 2006-2009. 2006 is important because that is when the Prime Minister became the Coal Minister,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

BJP MP Hansraj Ahir, who the party claimed has been in the forefront of raising this issue over the last several months, told reporters that he had written letters to the Prime Minister on this issue and claimed that it was bigger scam then 2G spectrum.

In a letter dated November 18, 2010, Mr. Ahir said he had demanded a special audit by CAG into the coal allotments.

Asked if the BJP was charging the Prime Minister with involvement in the alleged scam, Mr. Javadekar was evasive, saying, “We are only making a statement of fact.”

Mr. Ahir said that in 2008 the Bill to auction the coal mines was introduced and questioned why the allotments were done at a “breakneck speed” from 2006 to 2009.

The main opposition asked how many companies which were allotted coal blocks have not started mining operations within the time limit and why the government did not take action against each of such erring companies.

“Why was there such a rush for allotment when the PM himself was the coal minister for a major period and when the bill to adopt auction route was being actively considered?” Mr. Javadekar said.

The coal allotment issue had rocked Parliament on Thursday and led to adjournments.

The BJP also asked if it is true that some companies mined but did not use the coal for the purpose for which they were allotted the coal blocks and instead sold it in the market.

“Why did the government not take action against each of such erring companies?” Mr. Javadekar said.

The BJP also asked if some companies, who were allotted coal blocks, have transferred their coal blocks effectively through dilution of equity route as was done in the 2G spectrum case.

“Who allowed them the dilution and why did the government not take any action against the companies who violated the terms and conditions,” Mr. Ahir said.

The opposition party also wanted to know if the government has on its own conducted any inquiry into the complaints of irregularities and what were the findings. “And if not, what is the reason,” he said.

Mr. Ahir alleged that the ‘scam’ could be upto the tune of Rs 10 lakh crore. He maintained that other than the PM, he had also written to the Planning Commission and other government authorities that such allocation of coal is wrong and is causing a huge loss to the exchequer.

“The arguments put up by the government resemble the typical Congress pattern of defending every scam like Bofors, CWG and 2G.

“First, deny completely, then take shelter under technicality, and then raise legal points and ultimately try to defend PMO-PM-High Command and blame it all on juniors. The coal scam, which is the mother of all scam, seems to follow the same trend,” Mr. Javadker said.

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