New Delhi: LK Advani, Chairman of BJP Parliamentary Party, has confirmed a shift in his party’s position for a debate in Parliament on coalgate. In a blog post published today, he said the party is willing to settle for cancellation of licenses allocated to 142 private players during the period referenced in the CAG report, and a judicial probe into the matter.
The BJP was so far, insisting that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation was a pre-condition for a debate in Parliament.
With UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi traveling abroad for a week-long medical check-up any solution to the continuing political impasse is unlikely, at least for now.
In his blog post released a day after Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj’s tweet, Advani says “the deadlock in Parliament on coal allocation has continued for over a week now. The NDA has offered to resolve the deadlock if all the allotments made are cancelled and the process whereby the screening committee has decided these allocations is subjected to a judicial probe. The Government is not yet prepared for this.”
A top BJP leader told Firstpost that their demand for Prime Minister’s resignation continues. The party has gone into an agitation mode in different parts of the country on the issue. They tested Congress’ willingness to run the House with a new and more achievable pre-condition. “It would be a huge achievement for us, if the Congress agrees for scrapping of licenses given during 2006-09 when Manmohan Singh was minister-in-charge of coal ministry,” he said. Another BJP leader said after setting the agenda on coalgate and bringing the issue onto public discourse, the party also had to take a more pragmatic position, which by no means could be counted soft by the Congress.
Sources said Congress President Sonia Gandhi made two calls to Sushma Swaraj. The first call was made on Thursday, when the Prime Minister was still away in Tehran attending the NAM summit, to find ways to end the impasse in Parliament. In a tweet on Saturday Sushma said “Yes, Mrs Gandhi spoke to me on the phone and wanted the Parliamentary impasse to end by our agreeing to a discussion. I told her the government should announce cancellation of coal blocks and instituted a fair and independent inquiry. Then we could have a discussion”. Sonia, sources said, responded by saying she would speak to the Prime Minister on the subject.
Sonia made second call to Sushma on Saturday, before leaving for her medical treatment abroad. The UPA chairperson had spoken to the Prime Minister and Congress Core Committee members on the issue. She conveyed that BJP’s new set of pre-conditions was not agreeable to the party and Government. The deadlock between Congress and BJP, now stands, where it was since August 21.
The BJP leaders believe that the PM could be opposed to the idea of canceling the licenses on two counts. One, that the BJP would then hold it up as a trophy and brand it as an admission of guilt on the part of the UPA government and then press for “the kill” since it would mean that Manmohan Singh has already accepted his responsibility. Second, it could shake private sector confidence in Government and affect the overall investment climate.
Some party leaders are curious as to why Sushma Swaraj didn’t mention their principal demand in her conversation as narrated in her tweet. Yet, in Ahmedabad the same day, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley was stepping up the rhetoric and alleging that Manmohan Singh was directly responsible for the coal block allocation scam.
In his blog titled, “Prime Minister’s Poor Defence on Coalgate”, Advani made a scathing criticism of Manmohan Singh. “Last week the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh came to the Lok Sabha and laid on the Table a lengthy statement on the scandal which today has come to be known as Coalgate (after Watergate). And I was intrigued to find that Federalism, rightly described by our Supreme Court as one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution and so one which cannot be amended by Parliament, was sought to be blamed by the Prime Minister in his totally unconvincing explanation”, he said.