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PM's statement on coal-gate 'unconvincing': Advani in blog

September 02, 2012 14:54 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday gave further indication of a climb down from its stand on the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying the government was yet to respond to the National Democratic Alliance offer of resolving deadlock in Parliament if the controversial coal block allocations were cancelled and a judicial probe ordered.

The indication was given by senior BJP leader L K Advani in a blog post which came the morning after the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj tweeted that discussion in Parliament could begin if the government cancelled the coal block allocations and ordered a "fair and independent inquiry".

Here is what Advani wrote in his blog:

The deadlock in Parliament on coal allocation has continued for over a week now.  The NDA has offered to resolve the deadlock if all the allotments made are cancelled and the process whereby the screening committee has decided these allocations is subjected to a judicial probe. The government is not yet prepared for this.

Read full text of Advani's blog

Last week the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh came to the Lok Sabha and laid on the table a lengthy statement on the scandal which today has come to be known as coalgate (after watergate). And I was intrigued to find that federalism, rightly described by our Supreme Court as one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution and so one which cannot be amended by the Parliament, was sought to be blamed by the prime minister in his totally unconvincing explanation.

Repeated reference was also made to reservations supposed to have been voiced by some BJP chief ministers as if the decision to reject the law ministry's recommendation that there should be competitive bidding for the coal blocks was taken because of BJP Chief Ministers -- more prominently Dr Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh.

It is these two references in the prime minister's statement -- to federalism, and to chief ministers -- that made me revert to the emergency period and scan for similarities.

A news report from Raipur quotes verbatim Dr Raman Singh's letter of May 2, 2005 addressed to then minister of state for coal, Dasari Narayan Rao in which Dr Raman Singh says: In case the central government finally decides in favour of adopting the bidding route for allocation of coal blocks for captive mining, a part of the coal produced from such blocks will flow to the government. States being the owner of minerals within their respective territories, it would be in the fitness of things that the coal offer by the successful bidders to the government is shared between the concerned state government and central government. It may be mentioned that similar demands of state governments for the sharing of "profit petroleum" in the oil sector with the state governments is already under consideration of the central government."

Dr Raman Singh is fully justified in demanding a share in the revenues earned by the State as a result of competitive bidding. How can this letter be cited as opposing auction?

It is now universally acknowledged that allowing discretionary allocation of precious resources like spectrum, oil, gas and minerals gives ample scope to people harbouring corrupt and collateral intentions.

The 2G spectrum scam has been a recent instance to prove this. The price of Rs1658 crores fixed for an all-India license in 2008 was not the market value then. No wonder, under adverse market conditions, in 2012 the government itself has fixed the base price for 2G auction at Rs.14000 crores.

If NDA's demand that the discretionary allotment of coal already made should be scrapped and the coal blocks be auctioned is accepted and implemented, the truth would surface as to what is really the fair price presently. 

The BJP sought to draw a parallel with a situation during the Emergency when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had told German journalists that the decision to impose emergency was taken by chief ministers.

With inputs from PTI