New Delhi: It now appears to be a fight to the finish between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As the BJP continued to paralyse Parliament for over a week on Tuesday over the coal blocks allocation, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi asked her MPs to be ready for a street fight. And this, even as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) refused to join a public debate over the issue.
In another twist, the war of words was transformed to a war of letter as both the parties released letters attacking the claims made by each other.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday adopted a tough stance against the Opposition as she urged her MPs to fight the "intemperate criticism and negative politics of the BJP" accusing it of "holding Parliament to ransom".
She further said, "I condemn the words being used by the Leader of the Opposition. We must effectively go out and rebut and repel them in the upcoming elections. Blackmail has become its political bread and butter. Their belief is our way or no way."
The UPA chairperson condemned the Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj for her choice of words at a press conference she held along with party colleague Arun Jaitley.
Attacking the Congress over the CAG report on coal blocks allocations, Sushma had said, "Inhe mota maal mila hai (The Congress has earned massive profits on the deal). Value of coal was at an all-time high. Everyone was desperate to get their hands on the mines. The Congress didn't want to adopt a direct route for allocation, they played a cunning game."
Sonia said, "This is the handiwork of the BJP which shows scant respect for democracy. We must effectively go out and rebut and repel them in the upcoming elections."
"BJP's belief is our way or no way. We are prepared to debate. But blackmail has become the political bread and butter of the BJP," she added.
However, the BJP also stuck to its tough stand, even without the support of key allies, the JD(U) and the Akali Dal, gearing up for a straight fight in three state elections in Gujarat, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, probably believing that ‘corrupt Prime Minister’ is the perfect election slogan.
Hitting back at the Congress, the BJP said that Sonia Gandhi should refrain from talking about negative politics as Congress itself had used words like 'coffin chor' (thief) for George Fernandes.
"We don't need lessons from her," said Rudy.
Venkaiah Naidu said, "Congress should stop its doublespeak."
"Why didn't Sonia find those comments of Congress leaders undemocratic where they called George Fernandes 'coffin chor'?" he asked.
The leaders added that the BJP was firm on its stand and would not let Parliament function. "We won't let the House function. We appeal to all parties to join us in this," said Naidu.
Later, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj fired another salvo at the Congress saying that the ruling party got 'Mota Maal' (kickbacks) from Karnataka's Reddy brothers too. Sushma had on Monday alleged that Congress party had received hefty kickbacks in the coal blocks allocation.
"Laloo Yadav wants to know as to who got 'Mota Maal' from Reddy Bros? I would like to inform him and the country that the Mota Maal from Reddy Bros has also gone to the Congress Party. All the Mines were allotted to them by the Congress Government on the recommendations of the Congress Chief Minister. I demand that all documents related to the recommendations and allotment to Reddy Bros be made public. The country will then know the truth as to who got them the monetary benefits and who made recommendations for them. All the facts should be placed before the nation," Sushma tweeted on Tuesday.
This came even as there were reports that the Congress party was likely to serve legal notice to Swaraj for her remarks in coalgate.
Meanwhile, the BJP, in another attack on the Congress, alleged that Prime Minister’s Office had favoured Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahay by allotting two coal blocks to a company on his request.
The BJP produced a letter purportedly written by Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahay on February 5, 2008 seeking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's "personal intervention" in an application for two coal blocks.
"I would like to bring to your kind notice that M/s SKS Ispat and Power Limited have applied for two coal blocks for their steel plants in the state of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand... I shall be grateful for your personal intervention in this matter," Sahay states in his letter.
In its response, PMO wrote to Secretary, Ministry of Coal to take "appropriate action" on Sahay's plea, the BJP claimed.
"Please find enclosed for action as appropriate a copy of a letter dates 5/2/07 submitted to the Prime Minister by Subodh Kant Sahai...... along with a note regarding allotment of two coal blocks to M/s SKS Ispat and Power Limited for their steel plants in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand," the purported letter from PMO to Secretary, Coal, said.
While the BJP claimed the two coal blocks were allotted just a day after (February 6, 2008) Sahay wrote the letter to the PM, the date mentioned in the PMO letter's text is February 5, 2007, as quoted above.
The BJP alleged that no mining has been done in the two coal blocks allotted on Sahay's request.
The party dared the Congress to prove that the letters by Sahay and the PMO are fake.
There was a "black gold (coal) rush" during UPA regime and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was "eager" to oblige," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, demanding cancellation of all 142 coal blocks allotted during the UPA rule.
Alleging that the BJP is not telling the truth, Sahay, in his reply, said he is innocent and the Delhi High Court has cleared him in this matter. "BJP must respect the Delhi High Court judgement," he said.
Amidst the war of words and the war of letters between the Congress and the BJP, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) refused to join a public debate on its report on the coal blocks allocation.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the auditing body said, "Being a Constitutional authority, the C&AG (Vinod Rai) feels that it would be improper on his part to join a public debate on this issue."
The statement further said that the CAG would clarify on the report at the appropriate forum when required.
The statement said the CAG office had been getting repeated calls from the media for reactions to the news stories on the allocation of coal blocks and augmentation of coal production presented in Parliament on August 17 and subsequent clarifications in this regard.