NDA-ruled states blocked coal auctions: government

Under relentless opposition fire over the allotment of coal blocks to private companies without auction, the government has hit back, with two cabinet ministers – law minister Salman Khurshid and health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad – saying it was states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance that had opposed the auction of coal blocks in 2005.

Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan ''For instance, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik opposed coal block auction in 2005. He had even recommended coal block allocations to private companies like Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL).  In a letter he wrote in 2002 to the then coal minister, Patnaik recommended allotment of a coal block to JSPL,'' Khurshid said.

Khurshid further said all allocations were made as per the procedure suggested by the screening committee and that the prime minister had nothing to do with the procedure. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was directly overseeing the coal portfolio in 2005-08, the period which the Comptroller & Auditor General has said huge funds were lost to the state through arbitrary allotment of coal blocks.

Claiming once again that the CAG figures were unrealistic, Khurshid said, ''If we deducted the 14 per cent royalty, 33 per cent corporate tax and cheap power, then the loss comes to zero.''

Khurshid and Azad were addressing the media in Hyderabad on Monday.

Khurshid alleged that the BJP was misleading the nation as it could not face the government in Parliament, which had nothing to hide as far as the allocation was concerned.