|Policemen try to disperse people after a clash broke out between BJP and Congress supporters in Kanpur on Sunday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Sept. 2: The government appears unwilling to accept the BJP’s conditions for ending the Parliament standoff, with sources saying a blanket cancellation of coal block licences could hand the Opposition further ammunition to gun for the Prime Minister.
Sources conceded it would be difficult to reject the BJP’s demands, as they were similar to those of other opposition parties, but the time had come to take a political call and it was for the top leaders to decide after weighing all the options.
A Congress leader insisted that the government should not “fall” into the BJP’s trap. “The BJP will intensify the demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation once the licences are cancelled since it would amount to admission of guilt,” the leader said.
It was Sushma Swaraj’s tweet yesterday that has led to the dilemma. In the tweet last night, the leader of Opposition broke her silence on the phone conversation she had with Sonia Gandhi after the Congress chief had reached out to her on Friday.
The BJP leader said she had set two conditions for a discussion in Parliament — “cancellation” of the controversial coal block allocations and a “fair and independent” probe.
If the comment hinted at a shift in the BJP’s stand from its unrelenting demand for Manmohan Singh’s resignation, Sushma today ruled out any such dilution since the Prime Minister was in charge of the coal ministry when most of the allocations were made.
“The impression that the BJP has given up the demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation was wrong. We have put these conditions so that Parliament can function. In the debate we would take the stand that the Prime Minister as the then coal minister should resign,” she said in Mumbai.
Sushma also said no one from the government had got back to her yet and chances of an early end to the deadlock looked unlikely as Sonia had gone abroad for a medical check-up.
Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi has said Sonia would return in a week. Parliament’s monsoon session ends on September 7.
The BJP’s stand has put the government in a corner as several other parties, too, have demanded that all the controversial allocations be scrapped.
A CAG report last month had said the allocations of 57 blocks to cherry-picked private companies between 2005 and 2009 had cost the exchequer a presumptive revenue loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore.
The government has indicated its willingness to go for selective cancellation of mining licences based on contract and other violations. It was also not averse to instituting an independent or a judicial probe.
Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said in Kanpur today that an inter-ministerial group (IMG) would review allocations to 58 allottees on Monday. Based on its recommendations, he added, wrongful allotments and licences of those in cases where mining has not started could be cancelled.
Showcause notices have already been issued to most of the 58 licence holders for violation of contracts and the government has set a deadline of September 15 for action.
“No allocations are being cancelled right now. On the basis of the IMG report, the allocations which were made in a wrongful manner or those allottees who have failed to start production of coal in a time-bound manner may face action. Any number of coal blocks can be cancelled,” PTI quoted Jaiswal as saying.
Sources said the government was hoping to get non-BJP Opposition parties on board by its action of selective cancellation of licences and ordering a probe to look into allegations of irregularities in the allocations.
BJP leaders fanned out across the country today to keep up the momentum. Party sources said they planned to keep the issue alive even during the winter session.