Facing CBI charges of conspiracy and corruption in coal blocks allocation,former coal secretary P C Parakh on Wednesday asserted that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the final decision maker and must be counted as a “conspirator”,prompting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to demand a through probe.
Industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla,Parakh and others have been booked by the CBI in connection with alleged irregularities in the allocation of two coal blocks in Odisha eight years back.
After registering the fresh FIR with a CBI court,agency teams carried out coordinated searches at nearly six locations in Mumbai,Delhi,Hyderabad and Bhubaneshwar which included offices of Hindalco and residence of Parekh in Sikandarabad,Hyderabad.
Dubbing the allegation against him as baseless,Parakh said he saw nothing wrong in the government decision.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the decision. It was a very fair and correct decision that we took. I don’t know why CBI thought that there is a conspiracy,” Parakh said.
“But,if there is a conspiracy,then there are different members in this conspiracy. There is K M Birla who made the representation,he is one conspirator. I,who examined the case and made a recommendation,I can be another conspirator and the Prime Minister,who as the Coal Minister,took the final decision,is the third conspirator.
“So,if the CBI thinks there is a conspiracy,why did they choose and select Mr.Birla and me and not the PM.If conspiracy is there,then everyone is part of the conspiracy,” he told television channels,adding that after Shibu Soren resigned as Coal Minister,the Prime Minister had then directly taken charge of the ministry.
BJP came out all guns blazing following Parakh’s remarks,saying “Accountability of the Prime Minister and the PMO is equally important. Therefore,we demand a fair investigation.”
Parakh’s statement “merits serious consideration,” BJP deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
Describing Parakh as an upright IAS officer,BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said,”The time has come for Parekh to speak up. He has spoken a little,he should come out clean now,make public statements of how files were disposed off at that time (when the PM was in charge of the Coal Ministry).
“…how chits were received from Congress party headquarters in the PMO and PMO transmitted those instructions to the coal ministry for allotment of coal blocks,” he said. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said it was “ridiculous” that Parakh,a whistleblower and one who suggested correction in the system and introduction of competitive bidding,is being accused while the Prime Minister,who was the final authority,is not being held responsible.
Congress said the matter is under investigation and is being monitored by the Supreme Court.
“Unnecessary speculation,” should be avoided,Union Minister Manish Tewari said,adding that Government has been “fully cooperating” on the issue.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said while Parakh was a free man,whatever he has to say on the matter should be before the CBI.
CBI named 46-year-old Birla,chairman of Aditya Birla Group,along with Parekh and unknown persons and officials of Hindalco and Coal Ministry in the FIR,the 14th in the multi-crore scandal,for alleged criminal conspiracy and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Birla,Parekh and other accused will be called in for questioning,CBI sources said.
Birla has been named since the decision to accommodate Hindalco in the coal block,meant for PSUs only,was taken after he had a meeting with Parekh in the latter half of 2005.
The USD 40 billion (Rs.2.45 lakh crore) conglomerate has denied receiving any FIR and said the allegations against Birla were “preposterous”.
Parakh said there were two applicants for the two coal blocks,the first was Hindalco and the second was Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC).
Since NLC was a state-owned company,the Screening Committee under the Coal Ministry decided to make the allocation to it.
“At that point of time,Mr.Birla made a presentation to the Prime Minister,saying since his company was the first applicant for the coal block and was equally eligible and competent for allocation….therefore the decision should be reconsidered,” Parakh said.
He said Birla had also met him with a similar representation. “Thereafter,I made a proposal that along with NLC,we must also include Hindalco in this block. So,both of them were advised to form a joint venture company.”
Parakh said : “If ultimately the case goes to the court and the court finds that there is something wrong,I can’t say I am not responsible. I am as much responsible as the PM if there is something wrong.”