Government, BJP refuse to bend, parliament crippled (Roundup)

September 3rd, 2012 - 9:38 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, Sep 3 (IANS) The logjam over ‘coalgate’ crippled parliament for the ninth day Monday, with the BJP adamant on the cancellation of the controversial coal mines allocation and the government refusing to bow down.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram signalled the government’s desire to stand firm, by dubbing the BJP’s call for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation as “outrageous”.

“The demand for the prime minister’s resignation is outrageous, they know it will never be done,” the minister told the media here.

“As for the cancellation of coal blocks, action will be taken after an inter-ministerial group looking into the issue submits its report by mid-September,” he said. “Cancellations cannot be done through a diktat.”

The minister also made a passionate appeal to the Bharatiya Janata Party to allow parliament to function.

“The coal blocks allocation policy has been in operation since 1993,” he said. “But the purpose of allocation (to boost economy) has suffered a setback (as) many mines have not been mined.”

Chidambaram said the only way forward was a face-to-face debate in parliament.

The BJP has rejected repeated government appeals to stop holding parliament to ransom. It says it will allow the house to function only if Manmohan Singh, who held the coal portfolio earlier, quit.

The BJP also wants all the coal mines allotted mainly to private parties and which have come under a cloud cancelled.

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal echoed Chidambaram, adding that the inter-ministerial group had been asked to submit its report by Sep 15 and “the government will decide on the issue after that”.

The BJP kept up its attack on Manmohan Singh, saying he needed to speak up.

“The government has not given any response to the series of allegations (over) coal allocation. The prime minister has invoked his right to silence,” BJP leader Arun Jaitley said.

“A right to silence is available to an accused in court, it is not available to a prime minister,” he said.

The prime minister had last week recited an Urdu couplet to mean that his silence was better than providing answers.

The Left parties too said they want the coal mines allocation to be axed but said they are in favour of a parliamentary debate.

“We have been asking for the cancellation and a probe into the allocation,” Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said.

“The government should take some initiative now that the BJP has also come around to our view,” he said.

The monsoon session of parliament, ending Sep 7, has seen its proceedings lost to BJP protests on the issue during the last two weeks.

The BJP protest follows a Comptroller and Auditor General report that says that the nation lost around Rs.1.85 lakh crore ($37 billion) because of the irregular allocation of coal mines mainly to private players.

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