New Delhi, Aug 22 (IANS) A determined BJP refused to let parliament function for a second day Wednesday demanding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh resign over a CAG report on coal blocks allocation, in the worst showdown between the government and the main opposition in two years.
The government as well as the Congress hit back at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accusing it of running away from a parliamentary debate, even as the first signs of a divide in opposition ranks surfaced.
The BJP-Congress crisis spread quickly to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the 2G spectrum scandal Wednesday when five BJP members trooped out of a meeting, accusing Congress members of using foul language. The Congress denied the charge.
In what would be comforting to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), BJP's ally Janata Dal-United (JD-U) indicated it was not happy with the paralysis of parliament.
We are ready for discussion in parliament... The government should give a clarification over coal allocation, JD-U's Shivananda Tiwari said.
This prompted JD-U chief Sharad Yadav to say it was Tiwari's personal opinion and that he was bound by whatever the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) decides.
As for the BJP, it was adamant on seeking the prime minister's ouster, holding him responsible for the notional loss of Rs.1.85 lakh crore ($37 billion) to the exchequer due to allocation of coal blocks when Manmohan Singh headed the coal ministry.
Like A. Raja and Dayanidhi Maran, the prime minister should also resign. It is his moral obligation, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, referring to the two former cabinet ministers linked to the 2G scam.
The Congress defended Manmohan Singh.
The prime minister is clean, said Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi. He accused the BJP of routinely disrupting parliament and asking for the resignation of ministers and the prime minister.
The opposition is running away from debate, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said. The government is confident it will be able to overcome any allegation during a debate.
With both the BJP and the government digging in their heels, it appeared that the parliament deadlock could last the entire week.
While the BJP sought the support of UPA ally and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, UPA managers informally contacted Left parties and the JD-U.
The Left parties are not asking for the prime minister's resignation. They want a clarification from him, Bansal told reporters. But the prime minister can speak only if the house functions.
According to informed sources, BJP leaders Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and Rajiv Pratap Rudy met Banerjee Tuesday night and described it as a chance meeting at Delhi airport.
Banerjee refused to ally with the opposition.
Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were adjourned repeatedly without any business transacted as the opposition took up the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report alleging that lack of transparency in allocation of coal blocks to private players resulted in a notional loss of Rs.1.85 lakh crore ($37 billion) to the exchequer as on March 11 last year.
The chair in both houses tried their best to restore order after BJP MPs repeatedly gathered near the podium shouting slogans. Eventually, the speakers gave up.
The CAG report does not directly indict the prime minister or his office. But during the time the mining blocks were allotted, the coal portfolio was held by him -- between July 2004 and May 2009.
Bansal argued that the coal block allocation was done in the nation's interest.
BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who heads the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, was not impressed.
The prime minister must accept his culpability in this matter and the reason is very obvious. In the five out of eight years only 142 coal blocks were allocated. This means public revenue suffered and private parties gained. He himself was the coal minister, he said.