Not interested in one-day debate: Arun Jaitley

Arun Jaitley said suggestions to debate the issue of CAG report only in the House "will put a lid on one of the greatest scandals in Indian history."

New Delhi: Making it clear that BJP was not ready to give up its offensive over CAG report on coal block allocation, Opposition leader Arun Jaitley on Sunday said suggestions to debate the issue only in the House "will put a lid on one of the greatest scandals in Indian history."
"It has been suggested that since the Prime Minister himself was the Coal Minister, we should assume that this decision was fair. The Prime Minister’s office is a sacred institution in Indian democracy. It has to be judged by standards much harsher than those which would apply to Ministers like Shri A Raja," Jaitley said in an article issued by the BJP.

The BJP leader said that a debate is an essential ingredient of Parliament but so is accountability.

Jaitley said that if the process of allocation by the Prime Minister as a Coal Minister "smacks of arbitrariness it shakes our national conscience. The onus is now on the Prime Minister to accept the responsibility for what has happened."

"Suggestions that the issue should be debated only in the Parliament will put a lid on one of the greatest scandals in Indian history. We, in the Opposition, are not interested in merely the issue being talked out through a one-day debate in Parliament", Jaitley said at a time when the opposition party has been stalling Parliament, maintaining that nothing short of Prime Minister’s resignation will do in the matter.

In the article, titled "The Allocation of 142 Coal Blocks", Jaitley, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said "The arbitrary and discretionary allocation of 142 coal blocks is the latest albatross round the neck of the UPA Government. The arrogant and despotic government did not realise when the allocations were made that it would be held accountable for each of these coal block allocations."

He noted that the CAG has based its report on the allocation of these coal blocks primarily on the ground that after a decision was taken to switch over to the competitive bidding system it took the government eight years to implement the said decision.

The BJP leader said, "If a debate is being used today to put a lid on accountability then an alternative strategy is necessary."

He said that Parliamentary obstructionism should ordinarily be avoided but added that in the rarest of rare cases, obstructionism also bring its dividends.

He stated that an important session of parliament had also been lost on the issue of 2G spectrum scam but added that it also resulted in the then Telecom minister A Raja`s resignation.

"The country lost a valuable session of parliament in December 2010 on the issue of 2G spectrum scam. However, the obstructionism led to A Raja’s resignation, charge-sheets for criminal prosecutions, a Joint Parliamentary Committee, the auctioning of the 3G spectrum and now the surplus 2G spectrum which will bring an enormous amount of revenue back to the Government," Jaitley said.

"When parliamentary institutions are subverted and accountability is not permitted, the polity must invent new tactics so that the principle of accountability is not sacrificed. Debate and accountability must co-exist", he said.

"The experience of the 2G spectrum reveals that the government used the reference of the CAG report to the Public Accounts Committee for a cover up," he added.

Jaitley said that Government itself had now fixed Rs 14000 crores as a base price for the 2G spectrum auction as against the price of Rs.1658 crores at which the spectrum was allotted in 2008.

He alleged that the PAC was not being allowed to come to the same conclusion by obstructing Members who are helping the ruling alliance.

He said 142 coal blocks were allocated in eight years to private entrepreneurs most of whom were traders and not actual users. "Since the Screening Committee mechanism did not realise the actual value of the coal blocks a monumental loss has been suffered by the Public Exchequer," he alleged.

He said the eight-year delay is on account of an objection raised by the Prime Minister’s office, an incorrect opinion given by the Law Ministry, inordinate delay in drafting an amendment to the law and an inexplicable delay in implementing the amended law.

Each of the reasons for delay "does not appear to be bonafide," he said.

Stating that the whole process of allocation of coal blocks "stinks", Jaitley also alleged, "Disturbing information has surfaced that a valuable public resource was being allocated arbitrarily with the underlying condition of political funding of the party in power."

The BJP leader also hit out the Ministers of state who had assisted the Prime Minister in handling the Coal ministry. "Some of the Ministers of State did not come out with any credit. Their role in these allotments appears to be dubious," he said.

"Individual writ of few people who were running the government influenced the decision," Jaitley said and alleged that officials in the PMO who dealt with the Coal ministry files were not unaware of what was going on.

Many allottees were traders and not actual users. Several allotments have been made without the recommendation of the state governments, he added.

"The whole process of allocation of coal blocks stinks. This raises a larger question of how the Indian State should allocate natural resources," the BJP leader said.

"A rudderless government suffering from policy paralysis has sought advisory opinion of the Supreme Court on this larger question. Allocation of natural resources is an issue squarely within the policy domain," he said.

The BJP leader said the formulation of policy is an executive function and not a judicial function.

"If government formulates a policy which opens the flood gates for corruption, the courts can strike down the policy. What would happen if the courts were to advice the formulation of such an arbitrary policy?" Jaitley said in the article.

The BJP leader also said that the Indian politics was passing through a crisis.
"The power of politics is immense but the stature of some of the men administering polity is relatively small. It bears no nexus to the extent of power that the polity exercises. As a part of the process of political and governance reforms discretions have to be minimised and eliminated," he said.

Jaitley said that the allocation of valuable resources in Centre and the states through a discretionary process has led to serious charges of corruption and suggested that bidding was the best way to allocate these resources .

"Recent experiences are persuasive enough for the government to legitimise the policy where such allotment of mineral as a tangible resource is made only through a transparent and open bidding system. There is no substitute for such a policy today," Jaitley wrote in the article.