Even as the government was left reeling from the impact of the second cabinet minister to resign over the 2G scam, the main opposition party the BJP opened a new front of attack with allegations of a ‘coal scam’.
The party released a list of coal block allocations approved by the Central government over the past few years and pointed out that when a bill was introduced in 2006 bring in transparency into the whole process, there was a sudden “mad rush” in coal allotments.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, who released the list of coal blocks as well as the names of the private companies that received them, even hinted that many of the allottee companies were not even in the coal business.
“It was in 2006 that a bill was proposed to convert method of allocation of coal blocks into one based on open auction,” Javadekar said.
“Suddenly, from around 3 to 4 blocks allotted per year, the rate of allotments shot up to 20 to 22 per year,” he said, adding that there seems to be a “coal scam” involved in the entire episode.
The government is already dealing with allegations of a “gas scam” after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found it had failed to protect the tax-payer’s interests in its dealings with large private sector oil companies such as Reliance.
Javadekar said that before 2006, coal blocks would only be allotted to companies who had operational requirements for coal — power companies or iron and steel companies.
However, he said, in the “mad rush” that followed the 2006 suggestion of introducing auctions, several companies that did not have any coal requirement at the time were also allotted coal blocks.
“We are giving you the list of allottees… You yourself can seen how many of them have any running power plants or steel plants,” he said, promising to put up the list of the companies on the BJP website.
He also urged the media to find out how many of these coal blocks have been put into any productive use by the companies. “There was a great black gold-rush,” he said, adding that this is just the first step in a series of reports on this matter.
Around two months ago, the BJP had similarly raised a series of questions about Dayanidhi Maran and his interests in a Malaysian firm called Maxis. The questions, which seemed to indicate that Maran had a quid-pro-quo relationship with the Malaysian firm, were widely reported by the media, leading to pressure that ultimately culminated in Maran’s resignation today.
Maran was incriminated by the former owner of Aircel Cellular, C Sivasankaran, who reportedly told the CBI that he was pressurized into selling his stake to Maxis, which later invested hundreds of crores of rupees into the Marans’ family business.
Javadekar said the coal scam will unravel itself in the coming days as well.
Meanwhile, the oil ministry is set to file its response to the allegations raised by the CAG on a ‘gas scam’.
The current UPA government has found itself surrounded by accusations of scam after scam, starting with the Commonwealth Games scam, followed by the 2G scam, Adarsh scam etc..
It has tried to project itself as taking the allegations head on and conducting investigations and punishing the guilty, only to be faced with newer and newer allegations that seem to crop up at regular intervals.