As the CBI teams fanned out in 11 cities, including Hyderabad, as part of its probe into the allocation of coal blocks, questions are being raised about the role of former minister of state (MoS) for coal Dasari Narayana Rao.
Though CBI teams conducted searches at the office of Navabharat Power Private Limited since Tuesday morning, TV channels went to town claiming that CBI sleuths had also questioned Rao at his guest house in Moinabad.
However, by afternoon, Rao sent out a clarification saying he had not been questioned.
Even the CBI did not specify whether it examined Rao or not though indications came in from Delhi that the agency may record his statement later. The CBI only said that besides other cities, it carried out searches in Hyderabad, even as hoards of mediapersons camped outside Rao’s residence in Jubilee Hills. The searches at Navabharat office located on the Raj Bhavan road continued till late evening. Sources said that a 12-member team, headed by an SP rank officer of the CBI, conducted searches at the residences of the director of the group till late Tuesday night.
Rao was the MoS for Coal from May 23, 2004 to April 6, 2008. It was during these years that the draft Cabinet note proposing auction of coal blocks, prepared on the instructions of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was amended about half-a-dozen times. It was alleged that each time the note was amended, a new set of objections were raised by those who opposed auctioning.
It is said that in October 2004, Rao reportedly wrote to the then coal secretary PC Parakh that the competitive bidding policy should not be pursued any further. The rationale given by Rao for scrapping the proposed auction route was that the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2000, envisaging competitive bidding for allocation of blocks for merchant mining, was pending in the Rajya Sabha due to stiff opposition from trade unions and the Left