Parties squabble over CBI quizzing ex-PM

Bhubaneswar: A day after reports emerged suggesting former prime minister Manmohan Singh being questioned by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection Talabira-II coal block allocation, political bickering ensued in the State with parties indulging in mudslinging at each other.

BJP strongly demanded that chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who had recommended to the Centre for allocation of the coal blocks, should also be interrogated by the CBI.

Senior party leader Suresh Pujhari said, “After the questioning of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, interrogation of Naveen Patnaik becomes exigent. And without inclusion of the CM in the probe process, the inquiry will be incomplete.”

Countering BJP’s tirade, BJD said that CM’s recommendation is given for a particular block allocation to a party keeping in mind the State’s interest and such recommendation is totally constitutional.

BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb retorted saying if one goes by the argument BJP is making, every CM of India will have to be interrogated. A chief minister’s recommendation in the process of mines allocation is important, especially in case of coal, because it is an important component of a State’s development and industrialization. If such a recommendation was unconstitutional or illegal, it could have been rejected by the authorities then, he argued.

Meanwhile, leader of Opposition Narshingha Mishra defended saying that CBI sought information from Singh as he was the prime minister during the allocation of Talabira-II block to Hindalco and it cannot be construed as an interrogation.

Notably, CBI examined Manmohan Singh couple of days ago in connection with the Talabira-II coal block allocation seeking information regarding the change in Screening Committee’s decision in the allocation in 2005.

Hindalco was initially refused allocation of the Talabira-II coal block. However, after industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla’s missive, the decision was changed.

The Central investigation agency is slated to furnish its status report before the special CBI court, where the case is being heard, on January 27.