New Delhi, June 1 (IANS) Team Anna and the opposition Friday attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the CBI started a preliminary probe into alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks in 2006-09.
But the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) made it clear that it was not probing the prime minister. Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal meanwhile rubbished Team Anna's allegations.
Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal renewed his attack on Manmohan Singh. "If the prime minister claims innocence, why is he afraid of an independent investigation," he asked in Ghaziabad.
Jaiswal told reporters in Bhubneshwar that there was no scam in the allocation of coal blocks and that his department was not aware of any CAG report.
"There is no scam. Anybody can level any charges against anyone... There is democracy in the country," he said.
But he quickly added that if faults had been committed by the end users, these could be investigated.
His denial came even as the CBI began its probe following a directive of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
The CVC roped in the CBI following a complaint by Bharatiya Janata Party MPs Prakash Javadekar and Hansraj Ahir, who said the prime minister headed the coal ministry when most allocations were done.
Manmohan Singh held the coal portfolio from November 2006 to May 2009.
The CBI will scrutinise two aspects -- misuse of allocation of coal blocks and misuse of coal blocks by private companies.
The coal blocks were given away to both public and private companies.
According to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), mining rights for coal blocks were allocated without auctioning them and this led to massive profits for chosen private firms.
Even as the BJP welcomed the CBI probe, Kejriwal called it irrelevant, saying he was ausre the agency will give a clean chit to prime minister.
"We reject the referral of case to CBI as it will give a clean chit to the prime minister. How can the CBI investigate a case when it reports to the prime minister? It is just a pretence," he said.
Said BJP leader Balbir Punj: "The coal scam is one of biggest to hit UPA. It has taken place at a time when the in-charge at the coal ministry was the prime minister. CBI has registered a plea but I don't see it will be in a situation to carry an objective, impartial investigation.
"CBI is a part of the government and the government is headed by the PM," said Punj.
Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said the loot of minerals should end.
"The coal minister is saying there is no scam. So let the CBI investigate it," he added.
The Congress chose not to comment, saying the prime minister had clarified the issue.
A combative prime minister on May 29 threatened to give up his public career if there was any truth in the allegations hurled against him by Team Anna.
Kejriwal said the government was trying to mislead the people by saying that massive allocation of coal mines took place due to a peak in demand for coal.
"In three years, 145 blocks were allocated while prior to his tenure only 75 mines were allocated in 12 years. It shows that the demand for coal was high only in three years. In fact, only one coal block has been allotted since he left the charge of coal portfolio," he said.
Demanding an independent probe, Kejriwal said the blocks were allocated to companies which had "nothing to do with steel cement and power. Their motive was to sell the mines".