Has the Congress managed to turn the tables on the BJP in Coalgate, the coal blocks allocation scam?
With the extension of the ‘coal canvas’ for an enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Coalgate is likely to hurt the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other opposition parties more than the Congress, insiders say.
Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal has taken the war to the BJP’s courtyard by putting up fresh data about the allocation of coal blocks between 1993 and 2005. A total of 118 coal blocks were allocated during this period and 87 of them were allocated in Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand alone.
Most of them were allocated from 1998 onwards, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister and Karia Munda was the Coal Minister in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. Munda hails from Jharkhand and he is the deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha at present.
In a message displayed on the website of the Ministry of Coal, the ministry says has been flooded with RTIs requests seeking information concerning the allocation of captive coal mines. Thus it is appropriate to put all the information on the website, it said.
Some 118 captive coalmines were allocated between 1993 and 2005. Till 2000, Chhattisgarh was part of Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Digvijaya Singh of the Congress was the Chief Minister. Only five mines were allocated in Chhattisgarh till 2000 during Digvijaya Singh’s regime. Three of the five coal mines went to the Jindal group of industries and another went to Jayaswal Neco Ltd. But all them are mining firms.
But from 2000 onwards, when Chhattisgarh was born as a new state, 27 coal mines were allocated in just five years. And 22 of them were allocated in just two years (2004-2005) during Raman Singh’s regime. And some of the companies allotted captive coal mines are Akshya Investment Pvt Ltd, Vandana Global Ltd, Shree Bajrang Power and Ispat Ltd, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, Jayaswal Neco Ltd, Ultratech Ltd, Singhal Enterprises and Anjani Steel Pvt Ltd.
Most of these mines are marked as ‘non-producing’.
Ajit Jogi of the Congress was the first CM of the newly-born state of Chhattisgarh, but only five mines were allocated during his regime and most of them went to public sector undertakings.
Orissa has a similar story. During the Congress regime between 1995 and 2000, only three coal mines were allocated, but from 2000 onwards, when Navin Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal took over as CM, 26 coal mines were allocated in just five years. And most of these 26 coal mines are non-producing to date.
Here too, the Jindal group bagged three captive coal mines. Other companies which got captive coal mines in Orissa are Shyam DRI, Bhushan Ltd (it got three captive mines), Mahavir Ferro, Rungta Mines, Visa Steel Ltd, Adhunik Metaliks and Deepak Steel Ltd. All of them are under the CBI scanner now.
Jharkhand was also born as a new state in 2000. Between 1993 and 2000, when Jharkhand was a part of Bihar, only two captive coal mines were allocated during Lalu Prasad Yadav’s regime and that of his wife Rabri Devi. But the allocations were stepped up to as many as 24 mines in just five years (2000-2005) during the chief ministership of the BJP’s Babulal Marandi and Arjun Munda.
The CBI is likely to dig deep into Karia Munda’s role in the allocation of 24 mines in Jharkhand alone between 2000-2005. Munda’s link with Babulal Marandi and Arjun Munda is likely to be the crux of the Coalgate investigations in the days to come.