Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Monday rejected the Bharatiya Janata Party’s charge that bribes were paid to the Congress party in the allocation of coal blocks during the 2004-08 period and ruled out the possibility of bringing a Confidence Motion in the Lok Sabha.
Speaking at a hurriedly convened press conference here, Mr. Chidambaram described Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj’s allegation that “mota maal” (hefty sum) was paid to the Congress party as most unfortunate. “I outright reject these allegations. It is most unfortunate and unbecoming of the Leader of the Opposition…,’’ he said.
Mr. Chidambaram once again made an appeal to the Opposition, especially the BJP, to come to Parliament and discuss the statement made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday morning. “The Prime Minister has made a long and detailed statement which deserves to be debated. If there is anyone who has serious differences, he must seize the Prime Minister’s offer of debate.”
Rejecting the criticism in certain quarters of the Prime Minister’s statement criticising the CAG report, he said fair criticism of Constitutional authorities was permissible.
Replying to another question, Mr. Chidambaram ruled out the government bringing a Confidence Motion in the Lok Sabha, saying the government enjoyed the confidence of both Parliament and the people. “There is no reason for us to seek a Vote of Confidence.’’
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, who also addressed the media, ruled out adjournment of Parliament sine die in the face of BJP’s “obstructionist” tactics. “There is no such thinking in the government. This session will go on till September 7.”
The Finance Minister said the place for discussion was not outside Parliament, but inside it where the government and the Prime Minister would respond. “That alone advances Parliamentary democracy. Every day that passes without debate is a slap on the face of democracy.”
On the allegations of bribe, he said certain kinds of phrases should be avoided in a civilised debate. “If you can accuse the UPA government of receiving ‘mota maal,’ then what about the allocations made between May 1998 and May 2004 during which NDA was ruling the country? They should avoid sweeping allegations.”
He said the Prime Minister’s statement was absolutely clear, self contained, well drafted, carefully worded and it deserved careful study. “Unfortunately, the leaders of the Opposition have refused to join the debate in Parliament.”