Battling constant attacks from the BJP over allocation of coal blocks, the Congress on Saturday took the fight to the BJP. The party challenged the BJP to bring in a no-confidence motion against the UPA government instead of stalling Parliament proceedings over the controversial coal block allocations. In a counter-offensive, the Congress also accused the BJP of double standards.
"The state of Chhattisgarh was given large allocation of coal, due to the Chief Minister's close relations with the BJP. The state suffered losses of Rs 1054 crores. This is not a new thing. Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka also suffered losses, both of which have BJP governments. That is why the BJP does not want to discuss this matter in Parliament," said BK Hariprasad, Congress General Secretary.
Mr Hariprasad's comments came just hours after senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley targeting the UPA government over the coal block allocations, said that the 'zero-loss theory', propounded by Finance Minister P Chidambaram was 'preposterous'. Mr Jaitley had also said that it seemed Mr Chidambaram had not learnt any lesson from Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal who had to eat his words after offering a similar explanation for the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
"If I use Chidambaram's phrase, the coal on mother Earth belongs to the private player... If Chidambaram still says no loss, he is not the most able custodian of the Indian exchequer," Mr Jaitley had said.
Mr Chidambaram, in a statement clarified, "We did not say zero loss. We said there will be loss or gain only when coal is mined, not when there has been no mining in 56 blocks." Hitting out at the BJP, he also said, "If the PM is not allowed to speak in Parliament, is he not entitled to speak to the people? Why is BJP shying away from a face-to-face debate?"
In a report shared with Parliament last week, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had said that because coal fields were not auctioned between 2004 and 2009, private firms benefited by upto Rs. 1.86 lakh crore. Because the PM held direct charge of the Coal Ministry for three of these years, the BJP says the buck stops with him.
The Congress-led government had offered that the Prime Minister will make a statement on the matter, which can also be debated on the floor of Parliament, but the Opposition has refused to let Parliament function for four consecutive days, saying that nothing less than the PM's resignation will do.
But breaking ranks with his party, former minister Arun Shourie, on Saturday, asked the BJP to allow the Prime Minister to respond in Parliament.
"Prime Minister was the Minister-in-charge (handling Coal Ministry). He must be given the opportunity to explain the facts as he sees them," he said.