Missing coal files: PM to make statement in Parliament
New Delhi: After the Government relented to pressure by the Opposition in the Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will speak over the case of missing coal block allocations files in the Parliament on Friday.
Although the government did agree to ‘an intervention’ by the Prime Minister in the matter, it remains to be seen whether PM’s involvement in the debate can break the deadlock in both the Houses.
The intervention comes at a time when the Government is desperate to pass its ambitious Food Security Bill in the session curtailed largely due to adjournments.
Earlier, asserting that “the government has nothing to hide and nothing to conceal” in the missing files matter, parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath had said in the Lok Sabha that the Prime Minister “can intervene” in a debate on a statement by coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal on the issue.
“The coal minister will make a statement. Thereafter a discussion can be held in the House in which the Prime Minister can intervene,” Nath said after a strong demand by opposition parties.
A similar indication was given in Rajya Sabha by minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajeev Shukla after AIADMK members stalled Question Hour seeking response from the Prime Minister on the issue. “Prime Minister may also intervene in case it is required,” Shukla told the House which saw a brief adjournment soon after it assembled for the day.
Opposition has been stalling Parliament over the issue of files related to coal block allocations going missing and has been pressing for a statement by the Prime Minister to end the stand-off.
Prior to Nath’s assurance, the Lok Sabha saw unanimous demand by opposition members seeking clarification from the Prime Minister on the missing files.
Leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj said the files belonged to the period when “the Prime Minister was in charge” of the coal ministry from 2006 to 2009.
“From the very beginning, we wanted the House to function. But that does not mean we will allow the government to do whatever it likes…We request you (Speaker) to ask the government to urge the Prime Minister to clarify on the issue to make the House run,” Swaraj said.
In the Rajya Sabha, leader of the opposition Arun Jaitley said, “Prime Minister is in the House…Prime Minister should give his reaction.”
Responding to him, Shukla said Jaiswal made a statement on the issue on Tuesday. “Some clarifications were sought (and) clarifications were given. (However) it remained inconclusive. We are ready to conclude that discussion and if necessary Prime Minister may also intervene,” he said.
CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta made the same demand and alleged that the files contained information on “important persons” and they went missing in an attempt “to cover up the whole operation and ensure that those guilty are not punished. It is a serious offence.”
Terming the coalgate issue as “the biggest scam ever in the country, amounting to a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore,” Basudeb Acharia (CPM) wanted to know whether the government had lodged an FIR to find out who was responsible for the files going missing.
AIADMK’s M Thambidurai sought a clarification from Singh, while JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav wanted the government to find a “middle path” to allow the House to function.
V Maitreyan (AIADMK), who had given a notice for suspension of Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, said missing of important files has been termed by CBI director as a “serious setback” to investigation.
“The Prime Minister necessarily needs to intervene and clarify the matter,” he said.
Earlier, Ravi Shankar Prasad ( BJP) alleged that Jaiswal should not have made the statement as it was in conflict of interest since he was arbitrator in deciding on a family feud in a company which was a beneficiary of coal block allocation.