BJP rejects zero-loss theory on coal scam (Lead)

August 25th, 2012 - 11:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, Aug 25 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Saturday rejected the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s no-loss theory on the allocation of coal blocks to private players, alleging it was trying to mislead the people.

“When coal blocks are allocated, the right to mine rests with the private allottees, not government of India. Even without actual mining, the government has lost control over those mines at a throw-away price,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said at a press conference at the party office here.

He also slammed union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, saying that he had not learnt any lesson from the failure of zero-loss theory in case of 2G spectrum allocation scam.

“When the 2G scandal happened, Kapil Sibal (now communications minister) propounded the zero-loss theory. He could not mislead the people and eventually had to eat his words,” Jaitley said, slamming the UPA government.

Chidambaram Friday said: “If the coal is not being mined, there is no question of gain or loss… The notion of this presumptive loss is flawed.”

“There is a huge opportunity cost to the government of India. The finance minister should know whosoever is allocated the coal block, their balance sheet, and share prices touch the sky,” Jaitley said.

“So, even without actual mining starting, government of India has lost control over the mines.”

He also defended the BJP’s protest in parliament on the issue, and said that the government wanted to defend itself based on such “fragile logic”.

“Instead of accepting that government of India committed a monumental blunder, a fragile argument is invented to mislead the people of the country.”

“This is the kind of logic on which they want to base the parliamentary debate on, and then paralyse the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) so that the truth does not come out,” Jaitley said.

The BJP has been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who held the charge of the coal ministry when coal blocks were allocated without auction.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a report to parliament last week said that lack of transparency in allocation of coal blocks to private players resulted in a notional loss of Rs.1.85 lakh crore ($37 billion) to the exchequer.

Taking a dig at Chidambaram, Jaitley said: “In simple words, his argument means, if someone embezzles money from Mr. Chidambaram’s account and transfers it to his account, he cannot complain of a loss till that money is spent.”

“If he says so, I regret to say he is not the best custodian of India’s public exchequer,” he added.

On other parties not supporting the BJP’s stand of demanding the prime minister’s resignation before having a debate on the issue, Jaitley said it was time for all to decide which side they were on.

“There is such a major battle going on in and out of parliament, all parties will have to take a decision which side they are on. Those who have inflicted this moral violence on this nation have done damage, but those who chose to keep silence, including the allies of government, will be responsible,” he added.

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