More heartburn for PM as muck flies out of book

Last Updated: Sun, Apr 13, 2014 01:53 hrs

After certain claims in a book by his former media advisor, Sanjaya Baru, put Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a tight spot, it appears there's more embarrassment in store for the government. This time, it's former coal secretary P C Parakh, whose book Crusader or Conspirator: Coalgate and Other Truths has elaborated on "Why the Prime Minister is wrong".

Parakh, who was in the coal ministry when Singh was headed it, has claimed the prime minister was leading a government over which he had no authority.

While Baru's The Accidental Prime Minister had given out insider tales on how Congress President Sonia Gandhi ran the government from behind the scenes, Parakh's 288-page book says Manmohan Singh's image was seriously dented with 2G and coalgate scams. Claiming there was resistance from Opposition-ruled states in implementation of open bidding, Parakh writes the prime minister made no mention of the concerted and repeated attempts by state coal ministers Shibu Soren and Dasari Narayan Rao to obstruct, sabotage and stall open bidding. The former bureaucrat says he realised the "limitations in which the PM functioned" as he was "unable to counter vested interests within his government and party", though he had a spotless record of personal integrity.

Parakh, who was last year named as an accused in the first information report in the alleged coal scam for allocating a block to Hindalco, says if Ranjit Sinha (CBI director) had the "courage of conviction, he ought to have named the prime minister in the FIR." He has said it was the prime minister who finally approved the proposal to jointly allocate the Talabira-II block to Neyveli Lignite (NLC) and Hindalco. In the book, Parakh has raised nine questions over CBI naming him in the FIR. Among those is, why the agency did not examine the relevant files from the Prime Minister's Office as part of its preliminary inquiry before concluding there was conspiracy and corruption.

The former coal secretary, while saying the prime minister agreed with his suggestion of opening the coal sector for commercial mining, agrees it would not be possible to get the amendment through Cabinet because of strong resistance from the Left parties. "This stance is unfortunate. The government went all out on issues like the Indo-US nuclear deal and FDI in did not show the same determination in opening up the coal sector," he writes.

In a chapter on how the PMO and ministers scuttled transparency, Parakh says "neither industry nor the political system wanted a transparent procedure".

Recollecting his conversation during a "farewell call" on August 17, 2005, Parakh says he shared with the PM concerns on the insult and humiliation Members of Parliament heaped on civil servants. Expressing anguish, the PM said he faced similar problems everyday but added "it would not be in the national interest if he was to offer his resignation on every such issue".

With regard to the FIR registered against him and industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, Parakh says CBI is "either outright incompetent or is playing a deeper game which I do not understand". Delving into the CBI investigation, he says he does not expect "inspectors of police who do not understand the difference between a coal block and a coal mine" would interact with him. He also says in the book that Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to PMO for allocation of the coal block to Hindalco, because he felt NLC would export power to other states and leave behind pollution in Odisha.

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