New Delhi: Holding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "morally, politically and personally" responsible for the Rs 1.86 lakh crore loss estimated by CAG in coal block allocation, the BJP on Friday demanded that he should quit his post.
"The facts leading to the delay are incontrovertible. The Prime Minister is morally, politically and personally responsible for this wrongful loss. He must seriously introspect on accepting the moral responsibility for this loss and quitting his office," Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said.
The CAG report establishes that the concept of competitive bidding for coal blocks was first conceived on June 28, 2004, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said.
It has been put into practice after notification only on February 2, 2012. To give effect to this policy itself, eight years have lapsed, she said.
The main Opposition held Singh directly responsible for this delay as he held the Coal portfolio for five of these eight years. The CAG report which was tabled in Parliament today stated that this delay caused a loss of approximately Rs 1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer.
"This eight-year delay envisaged allocation of 142 coal blocks being alloted out of which 67 were allotted to government companies and 75 to private companies. The distinction between the price at which Coal India used to mine and the price at which private players were mining has resulted in a windfall profit of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to private players," Swaraj said.
BJP alleged that "this scam" is bigger than the Rs 1.76 lakh Crore 2G spectrum allocation scam. The party is likely to raise this issue vociferously in both Houses of Parliament and press for Singh`s resignation.
Asked if the BJP was alleging that Singh, known for
personal honesty, was a beneficiary, Jaitley said, "I only hope that he had introduced this culture of honesty into his government."
Swaraj maintained that the BJP feels PM is directly responsible and hence is demanding his resignation. She alleged that the obstacles which led to the eight-year delay were also caused by the PMO.
"In the 2G scam, the Prime Minister was politically and vicariously liable," Jaitley said, adding that in "Coalgate" he is directly involved. The BJP also claimed this time Singh cannot blame it on other union ministers as was done in case of 2G scam.
Insisting that the government should not question the CAG report as it had done in the case of the 2G spectrum scam, the BJP said the report has
revealed the mix of policy paralysis and inefficiency being used for a corrupt and collateral motive by the UPA government.
Jaitley said that the Prime Minister`s Office and Department of Legal Affairs were mainly responsible for the eight year delay.
"The first two years were spent in processing the concept of competitive bidding. The PMO on September 11, 2004 sabotaged the proposal by initiating a note by highlighting the difficulties of allocation of coal blocks in competitive bidding. This note was intended to favour those who were beneficiaries of a discretionary system of allotment and making windfall gains," Jaitley said.
He alleged that the Department of Legal Affairs delayed it further by first saying competitive bidding could be allowed by mere administrative instructions but later said the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act.
Another 25 months were spent on the legislative amendment and then 18 months for the government to notify it.
BJP said the "scam" again proves that this government is indulging in delays, indecisiveness, lack of leadership in economic decision making and the consequent policy paralysis.
The main Opposition also refuted the Congress` charge that the delay in competitive bidding was caused as some states were opposed to it.
"The management of coal is with the Centre. It can only consult the states. This delay has not been caused by any state," Jaitley said.
BJP also strongly condemned the Congress attempt to dismiss the CAG report.
"In the case of 2G spectrum, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal had said there was zero loss. Now the base price of spectrum has been fixed at Rs 14,000 crore. The Congress party`s tendency to rubbish the CAG has been belied in the 2G case and will be belied in the coal scam," Jaitley said.