Strategy on coal issue after PM`s statement:CPI(M)

CPI(M)said it would decide its strategy on the coal block allocation issue on the basis of a statement PM may make in Parliament on the matter.

Updated: Aug 23, 2012, 21:01 PM IST

New Delhi: CPI(M) on Thursday said it would decide its strategy on the coal block allocation issue on the basis of a statement Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may make in Parliament on the matter.

Unlike the principal opposition BJP, CPI(M) has demanded a clarification from Singh after CAG said the coal block allocations by the government had led to extending undue benefits of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to private parties.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the Prime Minister, if he makes a statement in Parliament, should clarify why the government did not implement its own decision of allocating coal blocks through competitive bidding and whether it would book all those responsible for giving away the blocks without bidding between 2005 and 2009.

"Depending on that clarification, we will take the next course of action. On that basis, we will take the issue forward," he told a press conference here.

On the three days of disruption in Parliament, he said, "Apart from Presiding Officers of both the Houses, the government has the responsibility to call the opposition parties and discuss a way out of the impasse. The government has to take the initiative but it has not done that so far."

Asked about the possibility of a mid-term poll, he said, "Whether it will happen or not will be decided by `M-Cube` or Mulayam, Mayawati and Mamata. Neither we nor BJP can say that. `M-Cube` is now supporting the UPA government."

Yechury said the three CAG reports on coal blocks, Delhi airport and power sector show that "crony capitalism of the worst order is being practised by this government. Due to this, private parties are making windfall gains. The coal block scam is larger than the 2G scam."

Referring to the government`s statement that it could not auction coal blocks because of strong opposition from five coal-rich states ruled by non-Congress parties and the Prime Minister could not be held responsible, Yechury said, "This is a specious argument."

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal had said that five states -- Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal -- had opposed the idea of introduction of coal block allocation through the bidding route.

Yechury said these states had opposed auction as they wanted the Centre to first keep the coal allocation to state electricity boards and PSUs like NTPC separate and then sell the remaining coal through competitive bidding or auction.

"Coal is a national resource and it has to be controlled by the Centre. But coal-producing states also have their rights and the royalty is too low. These states wanted that the coal required for their electricity boards should be earmarked and kept separately," Yechury said.

Regarding CAG reports on ultra mega power projects and Delhi airport, the CPI(M) leader said the government auditor has stated in both these cases that corporates were favoured by the government.

In the airport report, CAG said whenever there was a dispute between state-run Airports Authority of India and the private operator, the "government ruled in favour of the private party. These were sweetheart deals that denied the country and its people all the benefits that should have accrued to them."

Asked why CPI(M) wanted the Prime Minister to make a statement when the CAG reports are slated to go to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Yechury said PAC has been "virtually paralysed" and "vertically divided" on the issue of calling the Prime Minister on the 2G scam.

In an editorial in the forthcoming issue of CPI(M) organ `People`s Democracy`, Yechury said the Prime Minister and his government "must be forced to answer to Parliament and the Indian people".

The UPA-II government "must also be forced to identify and take action against those who are guilty and responsible for such mega loot of our resources," he said.

In a statement, the CPI(M) Politburo said party units would conduct a nationwide protest from September 3-5 to oppose privatisation of the coal industry and demand a full investigation to fix the responsibility for the "large-scale corruption" in coal block allocation.

The campaign would also focus on the demand for prosecution of all those guilty, "however high position they hold", the statement said.

The CPI(M) would also demand cancellation of all allocations made to the private companies and steps to recover the losses suffered by the government.

"This scandal and loot of natural resources is a result of the UPA government`s efforts to privatise the coal industry through the backdoor having failed to change the coal nationalisation law," the CPI(M) said.