BJP poses more questions to PM, Jaiswal over coal block allocations

September 11th, 2012 - 8:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Sep 11 (IANS) The BJP Tuesday stepped up its attack on the Congress after allegations of conflict of interest against former coal minister Santosh Bagrodia and targeted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal for continued coal block allocations even after the last meeting of the screening panel.

Attacking Jaiswal, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad asked if the minister was an “arbitrator” in a family dispute of businessman Manoj Jayaswal, who has been named in FIR by Central Bureau of Investigation in its probe of coal block allocations.

“Is it true that you were an arbitrator and if yes, in what capacity. How could a minister become arbitrator,” Prasad said.

He took a dig at the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over revelations that National Thermal Power Corporation had awarded a coal mine contract to a joint venture company in which 10 percent shares were held by Bagrodia’s family and demanded a probe in the matter.

Prasad also referred to allegations of conflict of interest surrounding Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai following revelations that he had written to prime minister recommending a steel company of which his brother was an honorary director.

“It is surprising that brothers of UPA ministers became big entrepreneurs after they became ministers,” Prasad said.

He said there was need to investigate how the coal mine contract worth over Rs 26,000 crore was given to a joint venture company in which Bagrodia’s family was shareholder by “disregarding” the efforts of Singareni Collieries, a public sector undertaking.

The BJP leader also claimed that Jayaswal’s company had got coal blocks and got thousands of crores of rupees as loan from banks.

He said Jayaswal had written a letter to his father and had conveyed that 26 percent shares in family-owned AMR will be transferred free of cost to Lokmat group.

“The rights of the balance 14 percent needs to be decided by Shri Shriprakashji. AMR has been allotted coal blocks because of efforts of Lokmat group. The commitment should be honoured,” Prasad said reading from the letter.

AMR Iron and Steel is among the companies named by the CBI in its FIRs. Vijay Darda, a Congress Rajya Sabha MP who is associated with Lokmat group, has also been named in FIR.

Prasad said the last meeting of screening committee was held in 2008 by the government’s own admission and sought a reply from prime minister over allocations of blocks for three subsequent years. He said the bill for competitive bidding had already been passed in 2009-10.

“How is it that 17 coal blocks were given to 36 companies in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Manmohan Singh, you were coal minister for majority of period (between 2004-2009). How do you explain it,” Prasad said.

He alleged many companies given blocks had suppressed facts and were not eligible.

“Were you (Manmohan Singh) mechanically signing as coal minister. The final allocation is done when the minister puts his signature. Did you investigate,” Prasad said.

He demanded cancellation of 142 blocks and special investigative team probe under supervision of Central Vigilance Commission and any other agency in coal blocks allocation.

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