Union minister Jairam Ramesh in Ranchi on Thursday. (Hardeep Singh)
Ranchi, Sept. 13: Visiting Union minister Jairam Ramesh sought to up the ante against the BJP today, alleging that Arjun Munda had recommended coal blocks for a private company with interests in Jharkhand, a charge that had been levied against the chief minister earlier by state party leaders and the JVM.
Ramesh, who as Union rural development minister met the chief minister over the last two days in connection with the Saranda development plan — he toured the former Maoist hub yesterday — also claimed that there was considerable confusion within the BJP over the method of allocating natural resources to private companies.
“I have documentary evidence that Munda had recommended allocation of coal blocks to Abhijeet Group. I am not saying he committed right or wrong. But I am in favour of a thorough probe into the matter by the CBI and an inter-ministerial group,” Ramesh told newsmen along with party leader Shakeel Ahmed.
The Union minister recalled that during meetings with him, Munda had spoken of Abhijeet Group which was putting up a big power plant in the Chandwa area of Naxalite-infested Latehar district.
“He tried to suggest that if coal blocks of the group got de-allocated, the state would lose out in many ways,” Ramesh said.
Munda has maintained that whatever recommendations he made was in the interest of the state.
“I recommended names of a few players for coal blocks as. they had pledged investments and would add value to the state’s natural resources in energy and steel sector,” he told The Telegraph in an earlier interview.
Ramesh also said that Munda was still not convinced about the idea of competitive bidding for allocation of coal blocks. In April 2006, the then coal minister Shibu Soren (in Congress-led UPA-I) had also indicated on official files that he was against auctioning coal blocks.
“During a meeting late last night, Munda expressed his view against the auction route for allocation of coal blocks, as it could jeopardise interests of those who had promised to set up industries in an under-developed state like Jharkhand,” added Ramesh.
The Union minister clarified that he was issuing such a statement to convey how divided the BJP leadership was on the issue. However, he said that whoever played a dubious role, either from the Congress or the BJP, should be punished.
“I assure you that the Congress leadership will act tough against its leaders also if found they were found to have indulged in wrongdoing,” he said.
Both Ramesh and Ahmed stressed the Congress’s viewpoint that a blanket cancellation of all blocks was neither feasible nor advisable.
“All action has to be taken on a case-by-case basis based on use of the blocks. This is what the inter-ministerial group is currently doing. Some wrongdoing might well have taken place. It is precisely because of this that the UPA government has initiated the IMG review process from January 2012 itself, well before the CAG report and CBI inquiries,” Ramesh said.