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Hint of shift in tweet

- Sushma comment silent on demand for PM scalp

New Delhi, Sept. 1: Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj broke her silence on her phone conversation with Sonia Gandhi, saying tonight she had told the Congress chief the government should “announce cancellation” of the controversial coal block allocations and order an “independent” probe.

“I told her (Sonia) that the Government should announce cancellation of Coal Blocks and institute a fair and independent inquiry. Then we could have a discussion,” the BJP leader tweeted.

The comment marks a shift from her party’s unrelenting demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation over the allocations, which the CAG had said resulted in a presumptive revenue loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore in a report the auditor submitted last month.

Sonia had yesterday called up Sushma in a bid to end the Parliament deadlock but was offered no assurance, BJP sources had said earlier in the day. But Sushma’s tweet showed the party appeared ready to end the standoff if the government cancelled the coal block licences and instituted a fair probe.

Interestingly, Sushma’s comments almost mirrored what Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav — widely perceived to have been acting as trouble-shooter for the government — had demanded along with the Left.

Both Mulayam and the Left have been demanding a judicial probe into the allocations and a discussion in the House. The Left has also demanded immediate scrapping of the allocation of the 57 coal blocks to private entities.

Earlier in the day, BJP leaders had remained adamant, refusing to change their stand regarding the Prime Minister’s scalp. “There is no question of changing our stand. We will, in fact, intensify our fight inside and outside Parliament,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain had said.

Some NDA allies, particularly the Janata Dal (United), however, didn’t seem too keen that Parliament remained stalled for long.

In a statement, Dal (U) chief Sharad Yadav said: “I do not want to say anything about the present deadlock in Parliament. But Parliament will not remain stalled for long, it will meet in due course. At that time we will get enough opportunities to speak about the (CAG) report (on coal),” Yadav said.

De-allocate deadline

The government has set a deadline of September 15 for initiating action on de-allocation of coal mines to many of the 58 allottees to whom show-cause notices have been issued.

Prodded by the Prime Minister’s Office, the coal ministry has swung into action to expedite the process of de-allocating the blocks ahead of an inter-ministerial group meeting scheduled for Monday to consider the issue.

The PMO had in April asked the ministry to review the cases of all blocks where production is yet to take place.