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Manmohan goes guns blazing in Parliament

Last updated on: August 30, 2013 18:59 IST

Manmohan goes guns blazing in Parliament

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Amid attack over missing files pertaining to allocation of coal mines, a visibly upset Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said he was not the "custodian" of files of the coal ministry but made it clear that no guilty person would be protected by the government.

Responding to posers by BJP members over irregularities, including in coal block allocations, he said in the Rajya Sabha that "corruption is there, has been there".

He contended that corruption, which was "regrettable", had been exposed during the recent years because of the RTI and activism of various agencies of the government.

Dr Singh, who was responding to clarifications sought by members on his statement on the state of the economy, was interrupted by opposition members who wanted to know how corruption could be contained when important files of the coal block allocations had gone missing at a crucial time when the CBI was probing it.

"I am not the custodian of files in the coal ministry," Singh reacted sharply.

At this, BJP member Prakash Javadekar asked, "then who is (responsible for missing files)"?

Dr Singh stressed that "institutional arrangements" like courts are in place to deal with the issues of corruption.

"Let the guilty be booked.... Our government has no desire to protect any guilty person," he asserted.

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Amid repeated disruptions and din due to clashes between the Treasury Benches and the BJP, the Prime Minister noted that Parliament is the supreme body of the country but if it is not allowed to function session after session, investors' confidence will be affected.

Hurt over being targeted by BJP, Dr Singh asked the Chair, "Have you heard of any country where the Prime Minister is not allowed to introduce his council of ministers...

"...Have you heard of Parliament in any country where the opposition shouts 'Prime Minister chor hai'. The type of things that have been said here...."

At one point, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley shot back saying, "Have you heard of any country where the Prime Minister has won the vote of confidence by buying MPs?", triggering uproar.

The reference was to the July 2008 Trust Vote sought by the Prime Minister in the wake of Left parties withdrawing support on the Indo-US nuclear deal issue. 





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Targeting BJP, Dr Singh said Parliament could not be stalled repeatedly over the issue of corruption as it prevents conduct of crucial business.

As the Prime Minister made the unusually aggressive remarks against BJP, Jaitley shot back, "We don't want to hear alibis for failure."

Dissatisfied with Dr Singh's statement and his replies to the clarifications, BJP members staged a walkout.

Dr Singh earlier said it was not correct to say investors had lost confidence in India and noted that repeated disruptions of Parliament were affecting investor sentiment.

"I am not making a partisan point. If you are conscious of investment, both foreign and domestic, the conduct of Parliament is important course," he said, adding "There is a need for consensus and building a consensus is that (job) of both."

Recognising that there is a problem that needs to be resolved, he asked BJP to recognise this.

"I do recognise that there is a problem. This can be resolved only if opposition does recognise its conduct in Parliament. This is not something that can be done unilaterally. It takes two to clap," he said.

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Acknowledging the need for taking corrective measures, he said, "There is a problem that foreign investors should not get wrong signals."

On corruption, the Prime Minister said, "Corruption is there, has been there. But in recent years, the RTI and the activism of various agencies has brought out certain things which are regrettable...These activisms should not be used for disruption of Parliament."

He, however, said his government has "no desire to protect the guilty" and the investigative agencies and courts were doing their job in bringing the guilty to book.

On the missing files of coal block allocation scam, Singh said, "I am not the custodian of files" that led to uproar, with BJP members questioning him "Then who is?" 

"I appeal to Leader of the Opposition and all members of the House to recognise that there is a collective responsibility we owe to out country that India remains a bankable, creditable investment opportunity," he said.

The Prime Minister claimed that the fundamentals of the Indian economy were sound, but did not deny that there were deficiencies. He said there was a responsibility to act collectively to deal with the current crisis. 

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Earlier, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley attacked the government for the current state of economy and said "domestic factors have also contributed to the mess that the country has landed in".

"The legacy that you leave behind is going to be 'after we, the deluge'," he said.

While attacking the government for its failure to control economy, Jaitley said, "A failed candidate in the class always has the explanation that the whole class has failed."

Taking a jibe at Dr Singh, he said, "We are extremely grateful to Prime Minister that he has finally spoken on the issue which is of utmost concern to the country."

He said though the country has braved many financial crises in the past, "today the situation appears to be far gloomier". 




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