New Delhi: The ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi has asked her party lawmakers not to be defensive on the Rs18.6 trillion (Dh1.23 trillion) coal-gate scandal that left the Parliament paralysed for the third successive day yesterday. (Thursday)
“We don’t need to be defensive. It is wrong. We must attack. They (opposition) cannot take people for granted,” she told a group of young lawmakers who called on her to express their disappointment with the continuing logjam.
The principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is on the offensive demanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation saying he headed the coal ministry for several years when coal blocks were allocated to private companies between 2004 and 2009 at throwaway prices.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report estimated the loss to the tune of Rs18.6 trillion (Dh1.23 trillion) though it did not name Prime Minister Singh or his office.
The government which had offered debate on the issue is now resigned that the deadlock will continue even on Friday since the BJP is in an unrelenting mood despite being accused of being obstructionist.
BJP, however, continues to blame the government for the deadlock and announced that it would continue to mount pressure on the government.
“This is not a small issue. It is a monumental loss to the Government of India and loss of taxpayers’ money while it gives huge profits to the private parties, and this happened under the Prime Minister. This is a way to build pressure on the government on an issue, this is very crucial and we do not want a mere half day discussion on this. In democracy at times this way of protest is legitimate to build pressure on the government,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said that the government did not visualise the stalemate ending before next week in view of the fact that talks to end the deadlock were not possible before Monday. “I am told that tomorrow also the Houses will not function,” he said.
While the Rajya Sabha chairman Mohammad Hamid Ansari tried unsuccessfully to break the logjam yesterday by asking leaders of various parties and groups to come for a meeting in his chamber, Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar is expected to convene an all-party meeting on Monday.
There are suggestions that Prime Minister Singh should take initiative and meet the opposition leaders to explain why he cannot be held responsible for the estimated loss which the government disputes and has termed as faulty.
The government strategy right now appears to be to isolate the BJP from other opposition parties. While they are united in demanding Prime Minister’s Singh resignation, several other opposition parties including BJP’s close ally Janata Dal (United) are in favour of the debate.
There are indications that BJP in its bid to up the ante may instruct its lawmakers to resign from all parliamentary committees. The Wednesday walkout by BJP lawmakers from a committee dissecting the equally controversial Rs17.6 trillion (Dh1.76 trillion) 2G spectrum allocation scam is seen as sign that the BJP may go any extent to put the rival Congress party in the dock over corruption issues.