New Delhi, Oct 16 (PTI): The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday backed former coal secretary PC Parakh’s stand that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh be counted as a “conspirator” in the coal-block allotment scam since he gave final approval to every decision as the coal minister.
On Tuesday, the Central Bureau of Investigation had filed a fresh case in the allotment scam, this time naming Kumar Mangalam Birla, one of India’s biggest industrialists, and Parakh, among others.
BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said the time has come for Parakh to speak up.
“He has spoken a little, he should come out clean now, make public statements of how files were disposed off at that time (when PM Manmohan Singh was in charge of the Coal Ministry)”... “how chits were received from Congress party headquarters in the PMO and PMO transmitted those instructions to the Coal Ministry for allotment of coal blocks,” Yashwant said.
The BJP leader wondered how a person who gave final approval to the coal block allotments can escape responsibility and how come more responsibility be put on those who just made recommendations to the Prime Minister.
On Tuesday, reacting to the CBI’s case, Parakh had said the Prime Minister was the final decision maker and must be counted as a “conspirator” in the case.
Yashwant said he was not surprised that Parakh has said that the Prime Minister should be accused No 1 in the coal scam.
“We are all aware of the fact that he was the Coal Minister during the period of the coal scam and every allotment of coal block has been done with his signature,” Yashwant said.
Birla and Parakh have been cited in irregularities in the allocation of two coal blocks in Odisha eight years ago.
Parakh said the allegation against him is baseless, and he saw nothing wrong in the government decision at that time.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the decision. It was a very fair and correct decision that we took. I don't know why CBI thought that there is a conspiracy,” Parakh said.
“But, if there is a conspiracy, then there are different members in this conspiracy. There is K M Birla who made the representation, he is one conspirator. I, who examined the case and made a recommendation, I can be another conspirator and the Prime Minister, who as the Coal Minister, took the final decision, is the third conspirator.
“So, if the CBI thinks there is a conspiracy, why did they choose and select Mr Birla and me and not the PM. If conspiracy is there, then everyone is part of the conspiracy,” he told television channels, adding that after Shibu Soren resigned as Coal Minister, the Prime Minister had then directly taken charge of the ministry.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said it was ”ridiculous” that Parakh, a whistleblower and one who suggested correction in the system and introduction of competitive bidding, is being accused while the Prime Minister, who was the final authority, is not being held responsible.
Congress said the matter is under investigation and is being monitored by the Supreme Court. ”Unnecessary speculation,” should be avoided, Union Minister Manish Tewari said, adding that Government has been ”fully cooperating” on the issue.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said while Parakh was a free man, whatever he has to say on the matter should be before the CBI.
CBI named Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group, along with Parekh and unknown persons and officials of Hindalco and Coal Ministry in the FIR, the 14th in the scandal, for alleged criminal conspiracy and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Birla, Parekh and other accused will be called in for questioning, CBI sources said.
Birla has been named since the decision to accommodate Hindalco in the coal block, meant for PSUs only, was taken after he had a meeting with Parekh in the latter half of 2005.
The $40 billion (Rs.2.45 lakh crore) conglomerate has denied receiving any FIR and said the allegations against Birla were “preposterous”.
Parakh said there were two applicants for the two coal blocks, the first was Hindalco and the second was Neyveli Lignite Corp (NLC).
Since NLC was a state-owned company, the screening committee under the coal ministry decided to make the allocation to it.
“At that point of time, Mr Birla made a presentation to the Prime Minister, saying since his company was the first applicant for the coal block and was equally eligible and competent for allocation....therefore the decision should be reconsidered,” Parakh said.
He said Birla had also met him with a similar representation.
“Thereafter, I made a proposal that along with NLC, we must also include Hindalco in this block. So, both of them were advised to form a joint venture company,” he said.
Parakh said: “If ultimately the case goes to the court and the court finds that there is something wrong, I can't say I am not responsible. I am as much responsible as the PM if there is something wrong.”