$33 billion "Coalgate" scandal threatens to topple Indian PM

Political controversy surrounding suspect allocations of coal mining concessions in India threaten to topple Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with chief opposition party the BJP issuing calls for his resignation.

The "Coalgate" scandal first came to light with the publication of the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report on August 17 alleging that the government's allocation of coal mining concessions to companies in the absence of competitive bidding may have cost the treasury as much $33 billion.

Dispute between India's incumbent Congress Party and main opposition party BJP over the coal block allocations have left parliament deadlocked, with the BJP engaging in willful obstructionism and demanding both the cancellation of the concessions and Singh's resignation.

News India Times reports that the Indian parliament has been host to raucous scenes, with opposition representatives shouting for the Prime Minister's resignation and Singh silenced by chanting while addressing the upper house of parliament.

According to the Economic Times an alliance of several parties in India's fractured multi-party democracy, including the Samajwadi Party, Indian leftist parties and Telugu Desam, have also called for a judicial probe into the coal allocations.

Singh has ruled out the possibility of resignation, denying any wrongdoing in a written statement and blaming delays in the introduction of a bidding process to resistance from coal rich states. The Prime Minister has also cast aspersions upon the legitimacy of the state auditor's findings and referred to them as "clearly disreputable"

New legislation mandates that future allocations be made by means of competitive bidding, though detailed processes are still on the drawing board.

Read more>>

Image courtesy of ANI via Youtube