Coal scam: will PM explain all FIRs, asks BJP day after Centre defends Hindalco allocation

New Delhi:  The coal fires continue to burn, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh defended his decision to allot two coal blocks to industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla's Hindalco in Odisha.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister's Office put out a press release after both Mr Birla and former coal secretary PC Parakh were named in a first information report or FIR filed by the CBI, which is investigating the scam.

The PMO said that the decision to allot the coal blocks to Hindalco was "appropriate and based solely on merit."

A belligerent opposition has now accused the Prime Minister of being selective in his response.

"Can the nation now expect that he will explain all the allocations mentioned in all the 14 FIRs lodged till date? He is silent on all the other FIRs," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdeker said.

His colleague in the BJP, Sushma Swaraj, called the coal scam a bigger swindle than the 2G spectrum and Commonwealth Games scam.

The government, meanwhile, continues to reject any allegations of wrongdoing by the Prime Minister, who also held the coal portfolio during the years in question.

Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid told NDTV, "There is no conspiracy. Do you expect the PM to read each page before signing it? I have been a minister. If things work like this, nothing will be accomplished."

Even as the government fights off fresh charges, the IAS association is rallying behind PC Parakh, who retired in 2005 as coal secretary.

The CBI is also investigating Navbharat Power Pvt Ltd, a company Parakh joined as director during his cool-off period, for allegedly misrepresenting facts for getting a coal block. The company was allotted a coal block during Mr Parakh's tenure as its director.

He denies the allegations, "The allocation was not made during my period and I was not even aware of their applications and their allotment during the period I was with the companies."

As the CBI files its next status report on Tuesday, the next big question is whether or not the agency will elaborate on the 'competent authority' it names in its previous FIR. It has already named a former bureaucrat; the question is: will it go so far as to include the office of the Prime Minister?

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