New Delhi: The opposition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will try to corner the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on governance and corruption as Parliament’s monsoon session resumes on Tuesday.
Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, plan to criticize Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s role in alleged irregularities that the national auditor has pointed to in the allocation of coal mining blocks to private companies.
Jaitley alleged that Singh was directly answerable for the scam. “The coal block allocation scam is extremely serious as the quantum is very large, larger then even the 2G spectrum scam,” he was cited as saying in Ahmedabad by the PTI. “In the 2G spectrum, the Prime Minister, as the head of the government, was morally and vicariously liable. In this case, for the five out of eight years, he himself was the coal minister, so he is directly liable.”
India’s policy of allocating coal mining blocks without auction between 2004 and 2009 to private companies may have cost the exchequer Rs 1.86 trillion, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said in a report submitted to Parliament on Friday.
In Delhi, Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, said BJP will surround the government on its “anti-farmer policy”.
“The government is gradually turning its subsidy policy against farmers. The nutrition-based subsidy only helps people who either produce fertilizers or import it. But this is not reaching to the farmers,” she told a farmers’ rally. BJP president Nitin Gadkari and former president Rajnath Singh led the protest of some 3,000 farmers from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Gadkari said there are too many scams. “Till the time the Congress is in power, farmers suicides will continue and there will be increase in prices,” he said. “Congress is looting the nation. They looted in 2G spectrum and coal allocation.”
The Supreme Court in February cancelled 122 telecom permits allotted by the government in 2008. The CAG said in a 2010 report that the sale of the airwaves lacked transparency and ineligible bidders bought them at “unbelievably low” prices, denying the exchequer of as much as Rs 1.76 trillion.
Key policy issues such as foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and aviation, a proposed law on pension fund regulation and amendments to the forward contracts law are likely to be taken up in Parliament. These policy initiatives have been blocked by crucial ally Trinamool Congress and with its leader and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee attending a UPA meeting on Wednesday, Congress is optimistic about some positive developments.
CPM parliamentarian K.N. Balagopal demanded a probe in awarding a contract to Delhi airport’s operator, on which CAG has filed a report.
“We demand a thorough probe by federal agencies into the issue. All steps must be taken immediately to take back the amount illegally collected by DIAL (Delhi International Airport Pvt. Ltd) and recover the huge wealth handed over to DIAL through illegal methods,” Balagopal said. “The ongoing collection of user development fee should be stopped immediately. Those who are responsible for causing loss to exchequer should be punished.”
GMR Infrastructure Ltd-led DIAL modernized Delhi’s airport at a cost of nearly Rs 12,857 crore as of 20 July 2010, according to the CAG report.
The airport’s privatization and modernization were criticized by CAG in a report last week.
Meanwhile, the government has called an all-party meeting on Tuesday to discuss reservation of government jobs for scheduled castes and tribes on which it intends to table a draft legislation on Wednesday. The meeting was called after the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which supports the ruling alliance from outside, disrupted the House on the issue.
Liz Mathew, Bloomberg and PTI contributed to this story.