Coalgate: Govt defends allocation, PM’s honesty

All the cabinet ministers rushed and issued relay of statements in prime minister’s defence after the Supreme Court was moved to include PM’s name in the CBI’s FIR in the case.

The government on Thursday used its old line that it had nothing to hide on the controversial coal block allocations. 

“We have nothing to hide,” Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy said, adding that allocations had been made to public sector undertakings and some private companies “on the recommendations of state governments where coal blocks were available”.

All the cabinet ministers rushed and issued relay of statements in prime minister’s defence after the Supreme Court was moved to include PM’s name in the CBI’s FIR in the case.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma hit out at the BJP. “Now who is going to give certificate to prime minister of India, who is globally respected, or to his ministers? I don’t think we need certificates,” Sharma told Times Now.

“The prime minister did nothing wrong by signing the coal allocation file,” he said. An atmosphere where ministers or bureaucracy do not sign papers out of fear was a “recipe for disaster”, Sharma said, contending that the economic environment had been vitiated over the past three years.

“You cannot hold decision-making to ransom so that nobody takes a decision, everybody is fearful,” Sharma added.

In a veiled criticism of CBI, Sharma said authorities should not “play to the gallery and create an environment of sensation and shock”.

“So, the larger question which comes up is that whether we have an environment which is conducive to decision-making and also which gives confidence to the investors and to the corporate world,” Sharma told NDTV.

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal too defended the prime minister. “The entire nation knows about the commitment and honesty of the prime minister. He does not need any certificate from any quarter to prove his honesty,” Jaiswal said.

The ministers also targeted the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for booking corporates.

Jaiswal too cautioned that everyone should refrain from issuing such statements which could weaken the economy of the country or prevent bureaucracy from working.

“Everyone should take precaution that no such statements are issued which could impact market sentiments, weaken the economy or could prevent bureaucrats from working,” he said, without referring to any specific person or party.

The Congress stood by the ministers’ view.

“They (ministers) have said that … when these sorts of accusations start flying and everyone is speculating, any kind of speculation will have a negative impact on the industrial growth, atmosphere. That’s it. No one has said that you should protect individuals. Nobody has said that,” Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury said.

“We have not done any kind of veracity on what CBI has said. I have categorically said that it is between the court and CBI what they are going to find. In the meantime, can we please not have random speculation and jump to conclusions. That is the precise thing,” she said.

The controversy started after CBI Tuesday registered a case against industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and former coal secretary P.C. Parakh on charges of criminal conspiracy and misuse of official position over the allocation of coal blocks in 2005. Officials said Tuesday’s FIR was the 14th in the allocation controversy.

Advocate M.L. Sharma petitioned the Supreme Court seeking direction to the CBI to add the name of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the FIR.

Parakh Wednesday said the final decision lay with the prime minister who held coal portfolio then. CBI director Ranjit Sinha justified the fresh FIRs against corporates saying the agency was only following Supreme Court guidelines.

“It’s not our concern what other agencies said about the former coal secretary,” he said, referring to Parakh, who has defended his role in the allocation.

“We have evidence on record that it was Parakh who overturned the screening committee decision and the coal block was allotted to the Birlas.”

On Wednesday, the whistleblower in the case and much lauded coal secretary, PC Parakh, who was also named in the fIR along with Kumar Mangalam Birla, had accused Prime Minister of being equally responsible for the coal block allocation.

Appreciating Parakh’s remarks, BJP’s spokesman Prakash Javdekar had said, “The FIR against PC Parakh is a way to scare the bureaucracy. It’s high time the bureaucrats open up against all wrongdoings”.

Pressing the authorities for fixing the PM’s responsibility in the coal scam, Javdekar had also raised objection against CBI’s investigation, saying that the agency had put “whistleblower in the FIR” by naming those officials who recommended that competitive bidding should happen and sparing “the man who allowed this arbitrarily allotments without proper reasoning”.

Javadekar went on to say that the Prime Minister must take final responsibility for the scam as he held the Coal Ministry when the “monumental corruption” of coal scam took place.

“It is under his (PM) signature that these things happened(coal scam),PM must resign immediately,” he said.

Echoing similar remarks, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said, “The time has come for Parakh to speak up. He has not spoken much; he should come out clean now, make public statements on how files were disposed off at that time (when PM Manmohan Singh was in-charge of the Coal Ministry).

“…How chits were received from Congress party headquarters in the PMO and PMO transmitted those instructions to the Coal Ministry for allotment of coal blocks,” Sinha added.

Sinha added that Parakh’s comments were not something to be “surprised” about as everyone knows that the Prime Minister “was the Coal Minister during the period of the coal scam and every allotment of coal block has been done with his signature”.

Sinha demanded that the PM should be labelled as the accused No 1 in the coal scam.

Since the monsoon session of the parliament, when the coal block allocation matter heated up, the PMO and the UPA government has been maintaining that it has “nothing to hide”. In fact PM Manmohan Singh became angry when the opposition called him chor (thief).

But the honesty and integrity of the prime minister, which is vouched by the Congress party, has not come to the fore till now.

With the Supreme Court moved to include PM in the FIR, it will be interesting to see how coalgate mess is cleared.

-with inputs from IANS

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