Former coal secretary's book deals new blow to PM Singh

NEW DELHI Mon Apr 14, 2014 6:55pm IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attends the inauguration ceremony of the Indian Museum in Kolkata February 2, 2014. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attends the inauguration ceremony of the Indian Museum in Kolkata February 2, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

Related Topics

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A new book accuses Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of being weak and unable to stamp out corruption on his watch, the second recent attack by an insider that undermines the Congress party as it seeks re-election despite trailing in opinion polls.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has cast the world's largest ever election as a battle between its dynamic and assertive leader Narendra Modi and the relatively ineffective incumbent premier Manmohan Singh.

That impression was underlined in a book, published on Monday, called "Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths" by P.C. Parakh, who retired as coal secretary in 2005.

It said Singh's inability to take on vested interests led to the so-called "Coalgate" scandal, which rocked his premiership.

It was the second book in the last week to portray 81-year-old Singh, prime minister since 2004, as a well-intentioned man of high personal integrity but one often unable to assert his authority.

The other, by a former media adviser to Singh, was greeted with glee by the BJP, and the party is expected to seize on the Coalgate book to try to land another blow at a crucial time.

The BJP is favourite to emerge as the largest party in an election that ends on May 12, although surveys conducted before voting began last week suggest it is unlikely to win an outright majority and will need to form a coalition with other parties.

Congress is headed for one of its weakest ever showings, the same polls showed.

"SOME RESIST, OTHERS SUCCUMB"

The Coalgate scandal erupted in 2012 after the public auditor questioned the government's awarding of mining concessions without competitive bidding, which it said unduly benefited chosen private and state companies and potentially cost the treasury billions of dollars in lost revenues.

Parakh said that Singh, though keen to introduce open bidding, could not tackle resistance from coal ministers in his administration. Parakh said he himself came under pressure from people interested in acquiring coal blocks.

"Pressures come in the form of enticements such as post-retirement assignments, partnership in business, bribery, blackmail or pure intimidation. Pressures also come from friends and relations," Parakh wrote in the book.

"Some can resist these pressures. Others succumb," he said, adding that at no time did the prime minister's office make recommendations or exert pressure in favour of any party.

The prime minister's media adviser declined to comment on specific allegations in Parakh's book, and referred to previous comments the prime minister made in parliament.

The media adviser said the government was helping the courts and police in their investigations into the affair, and that there was no case against anyone in the prime minister's office.

Singh has consistently denied his government did anything wrong, blaming the delay in introducing competitive bidding on resistance from coal-rich states ruled by opposition parties.

He has said the findings of the state auditor in the 2012 report were "clearly disputable".

Former media adviser to Singh, Sanjaya Baru, alleged in a book published on Friday that the prime minister allowed his authority to be undermined by Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress party and standard-bearer of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

In an interview on Monday, he commented on the prime minister's handling of various scandals under his rule.

"In all these cases he was aware of what was happening, he tried his best given the political limitations," Baru told TV channel CNN-IBN.

"Given those political limitations, he took the measures he was able to take and what he could not do, he could not do. So it was not as if he was blind."

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes; additional reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Mike Collett-White)

FILED UNDER:

Religion and Politics

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Fund Raising

Fund Raising

Flipkart raises $700 million in fresh funding.   Full Article 

Reforms Push

Reforms Push

Modi may order insurance, coal reforms if vote delayed - officials.  Full Article 

Reuters Exclusive

Reuters Exclusive

India looks to sway Americans with nuclear power insurance plan  Full Article 

To Boost Growth

To Boost Growth

Crank up public spending to revive growth - chief economic adviser.   Full Article 

Bold Steps

Bold Steps

SpiceJet rescue plan marks bold bet on Indian aviation recovery.   Full Article 

New Airline

New Airline

Tata, Singapore Air venture Vistara to take off on Jan 9.  Full Article 

Online Sales

Online Sales

Knock knock. Who's there? Amazon's best-selling holiday author.  Full Article 

Hacking Attack

Hacking Attack

N.Korea says did not hack Sony, wants joint probe with U.S.  Full Article 

Reuters Poll

Reuters Poll

BSE Sensex to hit 32,980 by December 2015  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage