With the Bharatiya Janata Party ‘bent’ on its demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on coal blocks allocation, the remaining part of the monsoon session of Parliament, scheduled till September 8, appears to be in jeopardy.
Both Houses were adjourned on Tuesday without transacting any business — barring the smooth and unanimous election of P.J. Kurien of the Congress as Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha — following the vociferous demand by the BJP that the Prime Minister must step down. It said Dr. Singh as Coal Minister could not pass the buck for the presumptive loss of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore due to coal blocks allocation without auction from 2005 to 2009. The tone and tenor of the BJP leaders inside and outside Parliament on Tuesday clearly suggests that their party would not allow the House to function till its demand is met.
A senior Congress Minister who informally approached some of the BJP leaders on the subject was conveyed that as of now there was little chance of a way out of the tussle.
The government which sensed the mood in the Opposition camp offered a debate in Parliament on the CAG report but it was instantly rejected by the BJP. The Prime Minister outside Parliament reiterated that the government was ready to discuss whatever the Opposition wanted. “We can give satisfactory answers to all issues being raised.”
Deputy Leader of BJP in Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad said his party was not for a debate or response from the government on the ground that debates in the past did not yield any results.
“We will continue to strongly press for it as the coal allocation issue is not an isolated incident. The 2G spectrum issue, Commonwealth Games scam, public-private partnership issue of airports and now the coal blocks,” he told journalists.
Congress spokesperson Renuka Chaudhary charged the Opposition with spreading ‘canards’ and said the Opposition should allow Parliament to function.
Asked to comment on the demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation, Ms. Chaudhary said the party was not in a mood to oblige. “It is propaganda fuelled politically.”
On the contention of Congress that the BJP-ruled States opposed the auction route, the BJP said that it was Dr. Singh who held the Coal portfolio for five years since UPA came to power in 2004 and was hence responsible for the loss of revenue.
“This whole alibi of shifting the blame on States [on coal allocation] is completely untenable and motivated,” Mr. Prasad said.
A senior BJP leader conceded that the party pitched on to a demand which the government would never accept. “At the same time we cannot be seen as mute spectators to the mega scams. It is the responsibility of the government to run Parliament. One option before the government is to cut short the session. Let them take a call. We do not want the onus on us.”