Column : Time for CAG to audit the states

Aug 29 2012, 00:20 IST
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SummaryThe Opposition is quick to pounce on the Centre for lack of transparency, but few states follow the same rules.

Politically, the BJP appears to have overplayed its hand by boycotting Parliament on the coal allocation controversy. Now the partys leaders seem to have gone too far and dont know how to retrace their steps. If the BJP thought some of the UPA allies like the Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party would plump for early elections to ride the momentum of their impressive assembly poll victories in 2011 and 2012, respectively, its calculations have gone somewhat awry. The BJP leadership did try to invite some of the UPA allies and non-UPA regional parties like Orissas BJD for an all-party meeting on the coal allocation controversy but did not get much response. It is clear that the BJP is getting impatient and is not willing to wait another year and a half to see the UPA out of power. Therefore, there is a tendency to create a political hype which some see as disproportionate to the reality on the ground.

Some BJP leaders even tried to cleverly dovetail the negative sentiment around the zero loss theory of the spectrum allocation onto Coalgate, but with not much success so far. The fact is Coalgate will not have the same resonance as the spectrum scam, simply because coal allocation and the decision-making processes around it are quite dispersed across states, many of whom are opposition-ruled. So, the BJP will find it very difficult to stick it all entirely on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However, the big benefit of Coalgate is that in future states will probably come under greater scrutiny and be made more accountable for their actions.

In the name of federalism, states tend to seek too many discretionary powers, leading to their eventual abuse. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his reply in Parliament on the coal allocation issue has said that none other than the then BJP chief minister from Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje, wrote to him in April 2005 opposing competitive bidding, saying it was against the spirit of the Sarkaria Commission recommendations.

Dr Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh wrote to me in June 2005 seeking continuation of the extant policy and requesting that any changes in the coal policy be made after arriving at consensus between the Central government and the States. The State governments of West Bengal and Orissa also wrote formally opposing a change to the system of competitive bidding, the Prime Minister has pointed out in his reply to

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