Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jan 21:
The questioning of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by the CBI in connection with the case relating to the allocation of the Talabira II coal block in Sundargarh district of Odisha to the Aditya Birla group owned Hindalco yesterday has predictably led to a slugfest among the three major political parties in the state.
While the BJP has demanded the questioning of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the case, the ruling BJD has rubbished the demand saying there was no justification for the CM’s questioning.
“The CBI has already questioned Kumarmangalam Birla in the case. Now it has questioned former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Given this, the questioning of Naveen Patnaik becomes inevitable. The investigation cannot be complete without questioning of the CM,” said senior BJP leader Suresh Pujari.
Pooh-poohing the BJP demand, BJD spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb said; “If one were to go by the BJP’s logic, all Chief Ministers have to be interrogated by the CBI for making recommendations.”
Pointing out that all Chief Ministers, particularly of mineral bearing states, make recommendations for allocation of natural resources, including coal, keeping the interests of the state, Deb said there was nothing wrong with the Odisha CM’s recommendation.
“If there was any irregularity or illegality, it is the responsibility of the Steering Committee, the Coal ministry and – above all – the Prime Minister – to take a call on that,” the ruling party spokesperson said emphasising the point that the CBI questioned the ex PM not on its own, but on the directions of the special court.
“If the special court orders the questioning of the Chief Minister for only making a recommendation, then all Chief Ministers who made such recommendations must be questioned,” Deb said.
On its part, the Congress made light of the questioning of Manmohan Singh saying he was not interrogated as an accused, but questioned as someone who may have some information vital to the probe.
“The former PM was not interrogated. He was questioned to find out any information he may have on the case. In any case, while he was PM, he had expressed his willingness to be questioned in the case,” Opposition leader Narasingha Mishra said.