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Coal-gate: 8 uncomfortable questions for BJP

September 06, 2012 09:41 IST

The Congress is showing a combative mood in defence of the party-led United Progressive Alliance's policy on coal allocation.

The group of senior ministers are briefing the media on-the-record and off-the-record.

Congress's argument is that the Bharatiya Janata Party is opposing the UPA's policy which was also followed during the National Democratic Alliance's rule. They have enough evidence of this. The party has a few sharp arguments to weaken the attack of the BJP. Here are some questions which the Congress believes the BJP will find difficult to respond to convincingly.

1. Is it not true that in mid-2005 some BJP chief ministers -- Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh and the CMs of some other non-Congress party led states like Odisha and West Bengal -- objected in writing to changing the system of allocating coal blocks to private companies and PSUs other than Coal India by the introduction of competitive bidding?

2. Is it not true that in April 2006, Shibu Soren, the leader of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha -- which is in coalition with the BJP in Jharkhand -- as the then Union minister of coal also objected to competitive bidding on the grounds that it was an assault on the federal structure?

3. Is it not true that the BJP-led NDA government did not have an open advertisement system for inviting applications when 18 blocks got allocated to private companies and another 14 blocks to PSUs between 1998 and 2004 and that such a transparent system was introduced only in September 2005 by the UPA-I government?

4. Is it not true that at least one BJP chief minister -- Arjun Munda – and another non-Congress chief minister -- Naveen Patnaik -- wrote letters to the Centre recommending allocation of blocks to companies which are now being called 'tainted' firms?

5. Is it not true that the CAG has indicted a BJP-ruled state government – Chhattisgarh -- for causing a loss of over Rs 1,000 crore to the state exchequer by handing over a coal block originally allocated to the Chattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation to a BJP Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament -- Ajay Sancheti – who is a close associate of BJP president Nitin Gadkari?

6. Is it not true that when the CAG presented its report on financial irregularities and losses on disinvestment in 2004, senior BJP Minister Arun Shourie had termed the CAG "idiotic" and when the CAG had presented its report of coffin-gate in 2001, then senior BJP minister Arun Jaitley had said, "the CAG has acted on hearsay and not facts" and added "controllers do not go to war"?

7. Is it not true that all applications considered by the Screening Committee have to be supported by a recommendation from the appropriate state government?

8. Is it not true that coal blocks once allocated to private companies and PSUs other than Coal India have to go through a process of obtaining statutory clearances like environment/forest approvals and land acquisition and that the time taken in this process is the main reason for the so-called delay in starting production in the mines allocated to private companies and PSUs other than Coal India?

A correspondent