Monday, May 6, 2013

Hardly anything in CBI affidavit to warrant anyone’s resignation….

So the CBI has declared that 3 deletions and 1 addition was made in its draft report on Coalgate. The opposition seems to have won a “tactical” victory, but is behaving as if someone has been pronounced guilty! Why tactical? Because it has been claimed by the CBI that the Law Minister, the AG and the ASG all lied – the latter two in the SC, the first one in media. But the issue we need to focus on is whether the changes suggested/made are substantial. The CBI has said they are not. No accused has been let off. No names have been deleted. The tenor of the report has not been changed. Nothing was diluted. So why should anyone resign????

Where is there any “interference” in the investigations as is being alleged by the BJP? In fact, Mohan Parasaran, the Solicitor General has clearly stated in ET that “As far as the PM is concerned (his stance is) if anyone body has committed any wrong law will take its own course. And that we should fully cooperate with the court and that he (has affirmed) the basic principle that we should never interfere with the investigation”.  He adds: “PM is saying that the government's credibility should completely be safeguarded and restored. We are not here to shield people. We will fully cooperate with court in placing all the facts so it will be good for posterity as well”. Does the PM look guilty of anything?

But let’s return to the changes made in the CBI draft report. The deletions made were as under (taken from TOI):

1) A tentative finding in the PE2 status report (dealing with 2006 to 2009 allocations) about non-existence of a system of allocating specific weightages or points (for deciding who gets coal blocks) was “deleted at the instance of the officials of PMO and coal ministry”
2) Another tentative finding in the same paragraph about non-preparation of “broadsheets” (presumably spreadsheets) or charts by the screening committee “to the best of our recollection” was deleted by the law minister
3) A change was made to the PE4 status report (dealing with 1993 to 2005 allocations) at the instance of PMO and coal ministry officials to incorporate the fact of “non-existence of approved guidelines” for allocating coal blocks

The italics have been added by me. Nothing has been deleted I promise (lest I be accused of adding and deleting too!). Now just look at the first two points. Remember that the system followed between 2006-9 was the same one that existed since 1993. The UPA did not start it. So if “the system of allocating specific weightages or points (for deciding who gets coal blocks)” did not exist between 2006-9, it did not exist in the prior years also. Ditto for “non preparation of broadsheets or charts by the screening committee”. Understanding this is crucial because it is being claimed that all this happened only during 2006-9. If the above statements are true, then all governments since 1993 are guilty. And this includes the BJP for six long years.

Point 3 above directly relates to the 1993-2005 period – and again is in line with my observation about the 1st two points.

What’s clear is that the system had weaknesses – from 1993 to 2005. It is this weak system that the PM wanted to change by changing over to auctions. What happened to his effort? Everyone conspired – most notably the CMs from the opposition ruled states of WB (Left), Orissa (BJD), Chhatisgarh (BJP), Jharkhand (BJP/JMM/Independent), Rajasthan (then ruled by the BJP) – to kill auctions (Read TK Arun in ET of 3rd May). It was a collective decision of the Congress and opposition to let the old flawed system continue till auctions could be introduced. This should be the central point of the CBI and SC inquiry…..not that a few people lied (though I am not condoning that).

The BJP was earlier demanding that the PM quit for his “involvement” in the coal scam. Suddenly that no longer seems to be their demand. They now want the Minister of Law to resign. What happened? Is it that the BJP realizes there is nothing critical in the CBI’s preliminary findings about the role of the PM? Is it that that they realize that whatever critical findings have been made cover the six years of NDA rule as well?

But how does it matter that the BJP demands the PM’s resignation or someone else’s? It’s not as if it will let Parliament function. That’s why I keep saying – the BJP’s objective is to stop legislative business. Everything else is just an excuse. If not the PM, then the two ministers. If not the two ministers, then the bureaucrats. If not coal, then 2G. If not this, then that. The objective is clear. The methods keep changing. In this context, read Shekhar Gupta in the Indian Express of 4th May.

It’s important to stay focused on the core issues and not get distrated by the tiny blots. The country wants to know if the Congress government worked at bringing in more transparency or removing it in the coal allocation process. To get to that, the following questions must be answered:

1)    Who thought of auctions? (Answer: the PM in 2004)
2)    Had the BJP not thought of auctions when they ruled? (Answer: no. They were happy to let the flawed screening committee do the allocations. If this system was wrong, the BJP is as involved in the scam as anyone else).
3)    Why were auctions not implemented immediately in 2004? (Answer: Official reason: Because some laws had to be changed to allow auctions. Real reason: no one, including the BJP, wanted a transparent system)
4)    What role did the opposition play in this? (Answer: all of them – the Left, BJD, BJP – opposed auctions in writing).

Now ask yourself: Does this show the PM or the Congress to be part of the scam? Or to be the ones who tried to stop the scam that had been going on since 1993?

The real truth is that the core issue: whether the PM is guilty or not – is the one that we should focus on. The rest is temporary froth, which excites the opposition, but which doesn’t add to the discussion. What is clear is that the PM and the Congress tried to improve a flawed system. They tried to bring in auctions. They dismantled the weak system that existed before them. How can they be called guilty???? Why should anyone – leave alone the PM – resign????

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