Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the Congress-led ruling United Progressive Alliance in India, has given a go ahead to the younger Congress brigade to step up the party's retaliatory tactics against the opposition's offensive over a recent report of possible government corruption in the sale of coal concessions to private firms.
Gandhi met with a group of party MPs Thursday who said Congress had failed to effectively defend the government after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said last week that the underpriced allocation of coal blocks to private companies between 2006 and 2009 might have cost the exchequer revenues to the tune of Rs 1.86 lakh crore ($33 billion).
Both houses of the Indian parliament were paralyzed for the fourth consecutive day Friday as the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continued with its demand for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation since he was heading the Coal Ministry during much of the time under scrutiny.
An MP who met with Gandhi said the party chief agreed that the Congress should expose BJP's "obstructionist" parliamentary tactics, and wound up the discussion saying, "We should do something," the Indian media reported without naming the MP.
Earlier, Congress party spokesperson Rashid Alvi had held the opposition responsible for the deadlock in the parliament, saying that the coal blocks were allocated only at the recommendation of the states ruled by the BJP.
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"There is no question of the prime minister resigning. Prime minister's image is very clean. Nobody turns an accused or delinquent only by BJP's allegations," Alvi said.
Congress sources said Singh was ready to face the opposition and alleged that governments of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and Rajasthan (under the rule of the BJP and its allies) and West Bengal (during the rule of the Left Front, headed by the Communist Party of India-Marxist) had given it in writing that there should not be an auction of the coal blocks, IANS reported.
The BJP members, who had said that they would be forced to resign from parliamentary committees and even from their seats in the parliament if their demands on coal scandal were not met, responded to the change in the Congress strategy with an immediate de-escalation of threats.
The change in the Congress's game plan came about when the party's general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said that the BJP was bothered by the "leadership of new generation emerging" in the party, referring to Sonia Gandhi's son Rahul Gandhi's imminent rise in the party ranks, reports said.
"Those who cross the age of sixty consider themselves young seeing their elders. Misconceptions in life are ok sometimes. They serve to maintain self-confidence but in politics, it is the new generation, which takes forward steps and in the Congress, the new generation is taking steps forward," Dwivedi said, taking a veiled dig at the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is being touted by a section of the BJP as the party's prime ministerial choice for the 2014 parliamentary elections.
Earlier, Union Minister for Steel Beni Prasad Verma had said that the 2014 general elections would see Rahul Gandhi, 42, pitted against Modi, 61.
Dwivedi, however, declined to answer if Rahul Gandhi was set to lead the Congress through the upcoming elections.
"This could be a subject matter of astrology what you are asking. I am saying young leadership comes forward and that does not come forward only at the sight of elections. Youth leadership has been regularly emerging in Congress," Dwivedi was quoted as saying by the DNA newspaper.
Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) found major instances of violations with regard to the coal blocks allocated in the eastern Indian states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and the southern Indian state of Karnataka, the Hindu reported, citing an unnamed source in the agency.
The apex audit body's report on the suspected collusion between the government and private players is the latest in a series of corruption scandals that have hit the UPA government.