Rubbishing the no loss argument of the government in the coal block allocations, the BJP on Saturday made it clear that it is in no mood to allow Parliament to function till its demand for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation is met.
“A nation wide debate is on on this issue though it is not taking place in Parliament. Our strategy does not permit that we allow the government to use Parliament to end this debate without any accountability. We want the debate to go on further,” Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley told reporters in New Delhi.
“There are occasions when obstruction in Parliament brings greater benefit to the country,” he said. Jaitley dismissed Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s assertion on Friday that there cannot be a loss in the coal block allocations as no mining was done in many cases.
“Kapil Sibal had propounded the zero loss theory in the 2G spectrum case... It was a bitter experience for him. He had to eat his words... Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has not learnt lessons from Sibal’s bitter experience and has tried to take it further,” he said.
The BJP insisted that once the coal blocks were allocated, the valuations of these 142 blocks in the market sky-rocketed. “Once the coal blocks are allotted to private parties, the right to mine lies with the allottees and not with the Government of India. Even without actual mining the government has lost control over these mines,” Jaitley said.
He maintained that there was a “huge opportunity cost” which the government has lost and termed Chidambaram’s no loss theory as “preposterous”. “The opportunity that the Government of India could have exploited now vests in private hands,” Jaitley said, adding that the government has given away these blocks at “throwaway prices“.
He said the government is being increasingly accused of “having conferred windfall gains on private parties and a corresponding loss to the government”. This loss has been substantiated by bodies like the CAG repeatedly, he said.
The BJP leader used Chidambaram’s own words to hit out at the Minister, saying, “The coal, which is a mineral under mother earth, now does not belong to Chidambaram’s government but to 142 private entrepreneurs.” Jaitley said if the Finance Minister still believes there was no loss then he is “not the best custodian of India’s public exchequer“.
“Instead of accepting that the government committed a monumental blunder, such kind of fragile logic is being invented to mislead the country. Is this kind of a logic an indication for which they want a Parliamentary debate? And then paralyze the PAC with this kind of logic so that the truth never comes out,” Jaitley asked.
Asked if his party has been isolated in this battle in Parliament, the BJP leader said all parties, including the UPA allies, will have to now decide which side they are on in this major battle against “monumental corruption”. Those who keep silent will do a greater damage than those actually involved, he said.
“These repeated propounders of the zero loss theory must now realize that the UPA is losing the confidence of the people. If they pursue policies of this kind, then UPA’s continuation in power with this kind of a performance is really a zero sum game of the UPA itself,” Jaitley said.
Jaitley said though the government allocated coal mines with the purported aim of expediting power production, even after five years “nobody has taken out even one kg of coal“. “Government strategy is very clear. The UPA government believes that it is easy to mislead the people and all their strategy is based on this belief that if you keep repeating an untruth then perhaps you will succeed in fooling the people.
Propaganda is never the alternative to truth,” Jaitley said. Defending disruption of Parliament, the BJP leader said when the Opposition forced a washout of the winter session of Parliament in 2010 to press for its demand for a JPC on the 2G spectrum issue, it had led to benefits for the country.
Enumerating these benefits, Jaitley said, then Telecom Minister A. Raja had to resign, a JPC was formed, charge sheet was filed in the scam, the 3G spectrum was auctioned which brought huge profits, and the 2G spectrum was re-auctioned at a base price of Rs. 14,000 crore when it had earlier been given away for Rs. 1,658 crore only.