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Indian PM Dismisses Charges of Coal Mine Corruption

  • Anjana Pasricha

Indian PM Manmohan Singh, center, arrives to make a statement to the media after he was shouted down by opposition politicians in the lower house of Parliament, in New Delhi, India, August 27, 2012.

Indian PM Manmohan Singh, center, arrives to make a statement to the media after he was shouted down by opposition politicians in the lower house of Parliament, in New Delhi, India, August 27, 2012.

NEW DELHI — India's prime minister has dismissed allegations of corruption against his government relating to the sale of coal mines and when the opposition refused to let him mount his defense in parliament, the prime minister used the Internet social media Twitter to make his case.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that allegations of impropriety against his government are “without basis and unsupported by facts" were virtually drowned out as opposition lawmakers shouted loudly, demanding his resignation.

Soon, a string of tweets on his official twitter account were posted in his defense. They say that the national auditor used flawed logic to conclude that the sale of coal mines to private companies between 2004 and 2009 could help them reap profits of nearly $34 billion. The auditor, also known as CAG, says those profits should accrue to the government.

And, after failing to be heard in parliament, the prime minister spoke outside parliament.

“I wish to assure the country that we have a very strong and credible case," he said. "The observations of the CAG are disputable and they will be challenged when the matter comes before parliamentary committee, the Parliamentary Accounts Committee.”

Furor about the auditor’s report has paralyzed parliament for the past week. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has threatened to stretch its protest until Singh quits, which means parliament may not be allowed to function until its term ends on September 8.

The auditor has exonerated Singh. But the BJP says the prime minister must accept responsibility because he was in charge of the coal ministry at the time of the controversial sale of coal mines.

Prime Minister Singh has appealed to the BJP to allow a debate in parliament and “Let the country judge where the truth lies.”

“This is one occasion where I do want, and I ardently wish that I should be given, the opportunity to speak to the parliament and also to the public at large, take them into confidence and I am sorry that the house is not allowed to function and the BJP is determined to disrupt the normal functioning of parliament,” said Singh.

The government has questioned the presumptive loss calculated by the auditor, pointing out that only one of the 57 coal mines has actually been opened.

But the opposition BJP appears to be adamant. Its leaders say the prime minister has failed to give a satisfactory explanation about the allegations.

“It is not a statement, but a list and points of excuses. He is hiding the facts," said Prakash Javedkar, a BJP spokesman, "his statement has disappointed the country.”

Singh’s administration has been rocked by allegations of corruption mounting to billions of dollars. The biggest scandals relate to the 2010 Commonwealth Games and to the allocation of mobile phone licenses.

On Sunday, police used tear gas and batons to disperse a protest in the Indian capital. It was the latest of a number of anti-corruption protests that have taken place in the last year.
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