Icing on CAG: Nobody’s business

Logjam over coal block allotment is a political skullduggery that leads us nowhere


Prasanna Mohanty | August 30, 2012

Political slugfest over the CAG’s report on allocation of captive mines to the private companies has followed an irritatingly predictable routine so far and is unlikely to change any time soon. Sharp exchange of charges and stalling of parliament have become the tried and tested strategy to score political goals, nothing more, every time a scam surfaces. Have you heard anyone from either the ruling coalition or the opposition even talk about the need for an effective anti-corruption mechanism? It is a political drama our political parties have fallen in love with.

Take another look at the goings on. The coalition in power says it wants debate on parliament and blames the opposition for not only shying away but also undermining parliament. And then, the prime minister gets up and says he is talking “full responsibility” for the decisions that led to the scam (he was heading the coal ministry during which, CAG says, private companies made windfall gains to the tune of Rs 1.86 lakh crore), but adds that the CAG’s findings are “clearly disputable” and “flawed on multiple counts”.

In effect, the prime minister has trashed the CAG’s findings. Shockingly, it comes at a time when country’s premier investigating agency, the CBI, says it will soon file FIRs against at least six companies for getting coal blocks through misrepresentation of facts, false information and forged documents. Some even sold off the coal blocks and made a killing. More than 20 companies are being investigated for wrongdoings. It also says the officials played dubious role, allotting coal blocks without evaluation and running elementary checks. A TV channel displayed minutes of the screening committee (which both processed and vetted allocation) meetings that showed 17 companies were allocated coal blocks even when they didn’t even show up to make their presentation.

The ruling coalition’s strategy is clear. It wants a debate in parliament, trash the AG’s findings, get the matter referred to the public accounts committee (PAC) of parliament and then wash its hands off saying that it has fulfilled its responsibilities. Fixing responsibility and punishing the guilty are none of its business. That was exactly what had happened in the cases of 2G and CWG scams. If A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi, the principle accused in those scams, went to jail (they are now out on bail) it was because the courts of law intervened. Nothing came out of the lengthy debates in parliament that followed its stalling.

The principle opposition party, the BJP, knows this well and hence, is reluctant to participate in debates. They are sticking to their demand for the prime minister’s head. Their strategy is to keep the focus on the scam by stalling parliament and once the session is washed out, take the issue to people through public rallies and marches. The objective is to encash it during the election. Fixing responsibility or punishing the guilty are not in its agenda either. When it was in power, the BJP-led government too had followed the method of allotting coal blocks. Now, along with the UPA government, several state governments ruled by the BJP are also in the dock for opposing auctioning of coal blocks and getting them allotted to their favourite companies.

Stalling parliament only undermines its role as an effective instrument of the government’s answerability. Political slugfest that doesn’t lead to finding a solution to the problem of corruption heightens the disillusionment of people towards their political leaders. The moot point, therefore, is how long this can go on.



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