The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the CBI’s plea against LK Advani in the Babri Masjid ‘conspiracy’ case and advanced the hearing to the first week of October, instead of December
New Delhi, Sept. 3: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited top BJP leaders for a meeting tonight after his assurance in Parliament earlier in the day that “efforts” were on to trace coal files the CBI has sought failed to satisfy the Opposition.
The move to reach out came after the Opposition had termed Singh’s statement in both Houses “unsatisfactory” and threatened to stall Parliament and block passage of key bills the government wants to push through.
Singh, who is scheduled to leave for Russia tomorrow for a G20 meeting, called and spoke to BJP patriarch L.K. Advani and invited him and other leaders for talks in a bid to pre-empt a fresh standoff.
Sources said he urged Advani and the Opposition leaders in Parliament, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, to co-operate on the passage of the pension bill, which, he said, was crucial to lifting the economy. The BJP, however, indicated its backing for only the land bill if the amendments it has suggested were accepted.
Singh said it was not possible to discuss the coal allocations as the matter was in court. He told the BJP leaders the government would carry out an independent probe but got no specific offer of help in running the House. Sushma said a core group would decide the party’s parliamentary strategy tomorrow.
Earlier in Parliament, Singh had first cautioned the Opposition against any “hasty conclusion” that the files were “indeed missing” and then went on to promise a “thorough investigation” to trace the documents.
“If the records wanted by the CBI are indeed found missing, the government will carry out a thorough investigation and ensure that the guilty are brought to book,” he said in identical statements in both Houses. But the uproar that followed led to adjournment of both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha without any substantial business being transacted.
Last month, the government had virtually admitted in the Supreme Court that seven of the 43 files the CBI has sought in connection with controversial coal block allocations were not available with it, but efforts were on to trace them.
Singh’s statement came after the BJP said the government’s promise that the Prime Minister would intervene would remain unfulfilled since he was leaving for Russia. He will be away for the rest of the session unless it is extended.
The upper House, which was adjourned after Singh spoke and left, saw a heated duel. Deputy leader of Opposition Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Prime Minister should have given a proper answer instead of a proper answer.
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla retorted that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee never gave repeated statements in the House.
“The PM offered no explanation as to why the files went missing,” CPM leader Sitaram Yechury later said, alleging a “brazen cover-up”.
Singh’s statement in the Lok Sabha came after lunch. “I would like to re-emphasise that the government is making all efforts to locate the files requisitioned by the CBI…. The government has nothing to hide…. If the government is unable to locate some papers, a report will be filed with the CBI for a thorough probe,” the Prime Minister said.