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Will Coalgate wash out Parliament’s Monsoon Session?

By Supriya Jha | Last Updated: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 21:15
Supriya Jha
Crystal Clear

What connects monsoon to the colour black? Black clouds - you might think! But what if the black clouds just shimmy to the tunes of thunder, and finally fizzle out, leaving us to wonder – is this what monsoon means? The ash coloured sky filled with the smoky dust? Or the puddles of rain water on coaltar-coated roads (in case the clouds manage to melt and trickle down).

Now sample this! The colour black and the monsoon session – not the season! What’s the connection? Obviously coal!

The CAG’s ‘numerically explosive’ report over coal block allocations has cast a pall of gloom over Parliament like a giant pitch-black cloud!

The report pegs the gains to the private parties – read losses to the exchequer, at a staggering Rs 1.86 lakh crore. Now, at this point, it can be questioned whether the gains to the private parties can be read as the loss to the exchequer.

Because unlike its previous reports, this time the CAG has made it a point to underscore the “windfall gains” made by the private parties, especially Anil Ambani’s Reliance Power.

The CAG’s calculations are reportedly based on 2010-2011 prices whereas the coal blocks allocation deals, for which the losses were reckoned, were made much before 2006, when the prices began to rise.

Should everytime one man’s gain be construed as another’s loss?

The CAG’s draft report that leaked in March, had pegged the loss from coal blocks allocation at an ironic Rs 10.67 lakh crore – which is almost 10 times the final estimate, that is, Rs 1.86 lakh crore. Could this presumptive loss play spoilsport with CAG’s credibility?

But CAG is not the only three-lettered monster that is haunting the Congress-led UPA government. The main opposition BJP is trying hard not to let this opportunity slip away and is striving hard to perform better than it did during the tumultuous 2G days or the cacophonic Commonwealth Games scam episode.

After all, everyone has to keep performing better with each passing day, be it a student, a manager or a CEO. Or even CAG (higher the number of zeroes in the corruption figure exposed, better the performance).

So, this time the opposition is acting like one and pitching hard for the Prime Minister to resign. Both the Houses of Parliament have not seen much business transacted since the start of this week, thanks to the parliamentary obstruction caused by the Opposition, mainly the BJP, which is hell-bent on its demand of PM’s resignation.

The BJP is not ready to budge an inch from its stance and holds Prime Minister Manmohan Singh responsible for the alleged loss to the tune of Rs 1.86 lakh crore, as he held the Coal Ministry portfolio for five of the last eight years of UPA rule.

“In the five out of eight years, only 142 coal blocks were allocated. This means public revenue suffered and private parties gained. He himself was the coal minister," said BJP leader Arun Jaitley.

Though the Prime Minister himself has said that he is ready for a debate on the issue, the BJP doesn’t seem to settle for anything less than his resignation. Much to the respite of UPA-II, its allies TMC and DMK have dismissed the demand for the Prime Minister to quit. And this time, it’s the BJP that stands isolated on its demand as all other parties favour a discussion on the CAG's coal report. Congress does have a reason to smile as its usually red-faced ally, Mamata di, didn’t leave the ruling camp in lurch and went on to snub the BJP’s request to join them in singing ‘Resign Mr. PM’ slogans.

Not letting the BJP earn the brownie points, the government has lashed out at the Opposition, saying that the BJP is shying away from the debate as it is guilt-ridden because they were the ones to reject the Centre’s proposal for auction of coal blocks way back in 2005.

"The BJP-ruled states opposed bidding in writing. The states rejected Centre's proposal for bidding," Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said.

Kapil Sibal buttressed the point, saying that the coal-bearing states of Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress was not in power, had opposed allocation of coal mines to private firms through competitive bidding or auction.

But, beyond this whole hullabaloo over CAG’s coal report and its so called ‘presumptive loss’, there is another loss, which is much more clear but unnoticed. Parliament has again been paralysed - this time by the smudge of coal!

The CAG keeps on coming up with huge loss figures, but do we seem to care? Because, what one misses out on is the daily loss incurred to Parliament everytime it gets adjourned. According to estimates, one day of work at Parliament costs Rs 1.7 crore. In the present case, the total loss over three days of adjournments equals to Rs 5.1 cr. So, if Parliament continues to get disrupted, isn’t it another scam in itself – worth crores?

By the way, this monsoon session of Parliament seems to have an uncanny resemblance with the monsoon season. Both work on the principle of uncertainty! The latter is notorious for tall claims and lesser rains, resulting in loss of productivity.

Similarly, Parliament witnesses huge clouds and thunders (the claims) first and scanty performance in the end due to frequent adjournments. It’s high time Parliament is allowed to function smoothly. As far as the coal-gate is concerned, it shouldn’t be allowed to turn into just another political warfare. It shouldn’t be deemed as the only touchstone to measure how clean our PM is. It shouldn’t be allowed to whitewash Parliament’s costly sessions.

There should be a thorough probe into the ‘lakhs of crores’ involved, because the common man like you and me, would never understand the mysterious mathematics of politics. We just don’t have enough time left after we are done counting on fingers, our decently moderate earnings and expenditures.

First Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 21:15

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