At a time when the BJP-led NDA is slamming the Centre over the coal blocks allotment scam, two key ministers in the Union cabinet _ Salman Khurshid (law) and Ghulam Nabi Azad (health) _ on Monday came down heavily on the opposition alliance, saying that it were NDAruled states which had opposed the auction of coal blocks in 2005.
“For instance, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, an ally of the NDA, opposed coal block auction in 2005. He had even recommended coal block allocations to private companies like Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL). In a letter he wrote in 2002 to the then coal minister, Patnaik recommended allotment of a coal block to JSPL.
His recommendation followed the cancellation of allotment of the coal block to a power project proposed by another company,” the Union ministers said. Khurshid said all allocations were made as per the procedure suggested by the screening committee and that the prime minister had nothing to do with the procedure that the screening committee adopted for allocating coal blocks.
“If we deducted the 14 per cent royalty, 33 per cent corporate tax and cheap power, then the loss came to zero,’’ Khurshid explained.
Dismissing the charge that the Centre had delayed auctions for allotting coal blocks and allowed some to benefit from the delay, he asserted that the government had followed the normal process.
As several states had opposed amendments, the process of making amendments took much time, he said.
Accusing the NDA of mudslinging, Khurshid and Azad said the Congress-led UPA too was ready to take to streets if the opposition did so.
The NDA was resorting to false propaganda to gain political mileage, they said. The Union ministers wondered why the NDA created obstacles to a debate on the issue in the just-concluded monsoon session of Parliament if its allegations had any basis.
“Usually, when a scandal surfaces every opposition party demands Parliament or Assembly session to discuss it. But in this case, the NDA deliberately created a ruckus in Parliament to thwart any debate on the allotment of coal blocks.
This proves that the BJP has no strong argument over the issue,” Khurshid and Azad said. Khurshid came here as part of a plan to hold hold press conferences in every state capital by Union ministers to explain the Centre’s position on the issue.
His colleague Azad, who had come earlier to attend a wedding in the city, and PCC chief Botcha Satyanarayana joined him at the press conference which was held at Gandhi Bhavan