Union ministers Azad and Singh defend UPA over coal block allocation
Digvijaya Singh and Ghulam Nabi Azad rubbish BJP’s ‘crony capitalism’ charges, vow to fight ‘misinformation campaign’ started by the Opposition
Virendra Nath Bhatt
The Congress on Wednesday, 12 September, resurrected the history of the alleged atrocities during the Emergency, forced sterilisation and Bofors controversy during the tenure of Rajiv Gandhi, to counter the campaign of the BJP against the UPA government over the alleged malpractices in the allotment of coal blocks. The Congress on Wednesday deployed its senior leaders and Union ministers to rubbish the charges of crony capitalism levelled by the Opposition.
Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in charge of Andhra Pradesh, was in Lucknow on Wednesday to share the political strategy of the Congress high command with the office bearers and cadres of the Congress for fighting what he called the “misinformation campaign” undertaken by the BJP against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the UPA government. Azad, along with the Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, the minister in-charge of UP, addressed a press conference.
Azad alleged that, “The BJP and other Opposition parties by their misinformation campaign over the allotment of the coal blocks were trying to create the same confusion in the minds of the people what they had done during the tenure of the Rajiv Gandhi on the Bofors issue.”
Questioning the integrity of the present CAG Vinod Rai, the Congress leaders alleged that “the audit report on the coal blocks given by the present CAG reminds one about a similar situation that prevailed in 1988 when the then CAG, TN Chaturvedi, had given an adverse audit report alleging kickback in the purchase of the Bofors artillery gun from Sweden and the people turned hostile towards the Congress even as no evidence of kickback have been found to this day and the charges remain unsubstantiated”.
Referring to adverse reports about the prime minister in some prominent foreign magazines and newspapers Singh said, “It appears that some foreign publications too are in close nexus with the BJP and other Opposition parties to malign the UPA government and the country, as the reports in the overseas publications indicated a bigger conspiracy to tarnish the image of the country.”
Referring to the alleged excesses and forced sterilisation during the Emergency, Azad said, “The then Union health minister in 1977 Raj Narayan had announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the victims of Nasbandi, but not a single person came forward to claim the compensation.” He added, “Like the Bofors and the atrocities during the Emergency, the campaign of the BJP against the Congress is based on falsehood.”
Meanwhile, Singh, refusing to comment against Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on his statement in Kolkata about UPA-II being full of scams, said, “How can a leader make such a statement without any substantive evidence? If Mulayam Singh Yadav has any evidence about the scam then he should make it public.” He alleged that the BJP did not want the country to know the real facts about the coal block allotment, and thus paralysed the functioning of the Parliament. It’s the chief ministers of the BJP ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand who should be held accountable for the allotment of the coal block allotment rather than the prime minister and the Centre.
“A BJP Rajya Sabha member Ajay Sancheti 's company SRS Infrastructure was given a coal block by the Chhattisgarh government with a state government partnership. Sancheti, who is a business partner of BJP president Nitin Gadkari, was allotted the block at Rs 129 per metric tonne by the Chhattisgarh government when the adjoining coal block was given at the price of Rs 530 per metric tonne,'' he alleged. Singh further said that in Madhya Pradesh, the Sasan Coal block was recommended for a private company by the CM rather than giving it to NTPC.
Azad said the coal block controversy was raised by the BJP in view of the coming assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat and later for the general elections due in 2014. “Apprehending defeat for the third time in a row, the BJP was making all effort to defame the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh government over the scams even when the CAG has never charged the Prime Minister on the scam,” he added.
Virendra Nath Bhatt is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.