New Delhi, Aug. 30: CPM general secretary Prakash Karat has forcefully opposed auctions for allotting coal mines and charged the BJP with “breathtaking hypocrisy” for stalling Parliament to demand the Prime Minister’s resignation.
Karat’s assertion in an article coincided with a move by Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Left to hold a dharna tomorrow to seek the resumption of Parliament after ordering a judicial probe into the coal allocations. The dharna is being viewed as a window of opportunity for Sonia Gandhi to persuade the government to order a probe, isolate the BJP and break the House impasse. ( )
“The BJP’s hypocrisy in disrupting Parliament demanding the Prime Minister’s resignation is breathtaking,” Karat wrote in the party mouthpiece, People’s Democracy.
However, the CPM took care to paint the Congress also with the same brush and pre-empt a presidential poll replay of suggestions of cosiness with the ruling party.
Karat alleged that the BJP was on the same page as the Congress on the coal policy. “It (the BJP) had brought the coal privatisation bill in Parliament. The NDA government had deregulated coal pricing and taken a series of steps to weaken CIL (Coal India Ltd),” Karat said.
He also rejected the Prime Minister’s clarification in Parliament and termed it a “brazen attempt to defend the indefensible”.
The CPM leader opposed the competitive bidding route, contending that it would lead to private monopolies and increase power tariff. The allocation of coal blocks without auctions in 2006 was at the root of the coal controversy.
The CAG has said the government should have pushed through auctions after changing rules through an administrative order while the Prime Minister has pointed out that policy cannot bulldozed in such a manner in a democracy.
Karat has his own political compulsions, besides ideological reasons, to oppose the auction route. The Left Front government in Bengal had auctioned only one of the six coal blocks allotted to it. The remaining five were given to companies with investment proposals in Bengal with the condition that the coal would be used exclusively in the state.
Karat strongly defended the stand of the erstwhile Left Front government and said it was against “outright competitive bidding”. He said Bengal under the Left had always wanted the involvement of state governments in allocations, including those to private parties.
Karat felt that those, including anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal, clamouring for outright competitive bidding were paving the way for privatisation of coal.
“Competitive bidding would favour the large private players…. Public utilities and state government-run corporations will not be able to compete…. Another aspect of the competitive bidding for coal will be pushing up the cost of power generation”, he wrote.
Karat also criticised the allocation policy of 2006. “The guidelines for allocation of captive mines had initially stated that allocations can be made to end users, i.e., steel or power producers. But this was diluted in 2006. Now a mining company which has a contract to supply coal to an end user can be allocated coal blocks,” he said, adding that this was used to give licences to dubious entities.
He alleged that the PMO had intervened to stop a ministry of coal directive barring excess coal to be mined by the captive coal blocks.
“Under the Prime Minister’s watch and the two ministers of state in coal ministry, concerted efforts were made to push ahead with this venal system of allocating coal blocks. As late as 2010, the PMO intervened to stop a ministry of coal directive which barred excess coal to be mined by the captive coal blocks and which stated that such excess coal should not be handed over to CIL. The PMO backed the companies that wanted to utilise the surplus coal mined,” Karat wrote, stressing that the Prime Minister and his government cannot escape responsibility.