After a washed out monsoon session of Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh slammed the BJP today accusing it of "negating democracy" by not allowing either House to function over the coal block allocation issue. (Read)
The BJP hit back to say that the UPA government was "committed to kleptocracy" and that loss of a "few crores" because of adjournments would be more than recovered if coal block licences were cancelled and allotted anew. As has happened every day for two weeks, both Houses were adjourned today, this time till the winter session, without transacting business.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a strongly-worded, written message to the nation, tore into the opposition for a "wasted session of Parliament". The statement said that the opposition had made a "mockery of parliamentary democracy" and instead of debating the issues brought up by the national auditor's report pointing to a scam in coal block allocations, "leaders of the opposition saw fit to demand my resignation".
The PM's statement also blamed the opposition for "disabl(ing) the voice of the public" and forcing them to "listen only to the voices in the street, which is not the place for reasoned discourse". He urged "all right minded Indians to stand up... against the forces of anarchy and disruption to secure the foundations of (democracy)..."
Till the very end of the session, the BJP was adamant that the PM resign over the coal scam. It also wants all allocations of coal blocks that the national auditor alleges were made in a non-transparent manner be scrapped. The auditor has alleged a R 1.86 crore loss to the nation because of these allocations made to several private firms, with links to politicians.
The Congress has said a flat no to both demands. The PM said outside Parliament this afternoon, "We have great respect for the institution of the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) but we must be ready to debate the findings in the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) on the floor of the House. The Opposition chose not to take advantage of the standard practices in Parliamentary democracy. This is (a) negation of democracy."
In the written address, he added, "I assure all of you that the issues raised in the CAG report are not being swept under the carpet. They will be discussed in Parliament as they should be. Whatever corrective action is necessary will be taken." (Read full message)
The BJP chose the last day of the session to announce that the political formation it leads, the NDA, will now take its protest on the coal issue to the streets.
Party leader Arun Jaitley said, "The UPA is a regime committed to kleptocracy - what we have started in this session will be taken to the people till we are able to restore fairness and some degree of accountability." Minutes before that, his colleague Sushma Swaraj announced that top leaders of the BJP would meet on September 11 to strategise how to take the coal issue to every village.
Justifying the means to an end, she said, "When Parliament ends this way, there is criticism - we are told that there is a loss since the Parliament wasn't allowed to function. In 2G this was the case, but when we look back, licences sold for Rs. 1600 crore is now being sold for a base price that will fetch the exchequer Rs. 1.26 lakh crore. So by losing Rs. 10-20 crore from loss of Parliament proceeding, if we can build pressure on the government, then that is acceptable." (Highlights: BJP on Monsoon Session washout)
If the Winter Session of Parliament last December, with the 2G logjam and the war over the Lokpal Bill, is one of the worst that the country had seen, this Monsoon Session gives it a tough fight. In the words of Vice President Hamid Ansari: "This session is likely to be remembered for work not done."
Of the 31 bills listed, only six were passed. For much of the session, MPs came to both Houses, shouted, even assaulted each other, took their daily allowances and went home. It is estimated that the repeated adjournments that washed out the Monsoon Session have cost the taxpayer Rs. 10 crore for the two weeks they lasted. Then there was the sight of the BSP's Avtar Singh and SP's Naresh Aggarwal pushing and pummelling each other in the Upper House. The fight went on in the presence of the Prime Minister and happened as the government was introducing in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, a bill to allow reservation in promotions for SC/ST public sector employees; that too has landed in cold storage.