NEW DELHI: To break the logjam over the coal blocks allocation in Parliament and to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) demand for the prime minister's resignation, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is likely to bring a confidence motion in the Lok Sabha next week to show that it has number on its side.
The UPA government is firm on its stand that the prime minister will not resign and that it is ready with a defence to present before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee.
This will be a show of strength for the government as the numbers are still in its favour, especially with its coalition partners having assured the government of their support.
The government meanwhile refused to give in to the BJP's demand that it cancel all the 142 coal block allocations.
The 'Coalgate' controversy has stalled reform efforts at a time when the economy is suffering a sharp slowdown and investors are pressing for changes to rules to allow more foreign investment in the pension, retail, banking and insurance industries.
Until Monday, Manmohan Singh had been silent about the report, which partly covered a period when he was also coal minister. His silence has proven politically costly as it has allowed the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to control the narrative and keep the government on the defensive.
While the CAG's report did not allege criminal wrongdoing by Singh's fragile coalition government it raised concerns about the non-transparent practice of awarding coal blocks by an inter-ministerial committee, which it said unduly benefited private and state power and steel companies.
On the eve of a trip to Iran, Singh appeared in the lower house of parliament to offer a comprehensive four-page rebuttal of the main allegations in the auditor's report but only managed to utter a few words before the din forced him to sit down.
In his written statement, Manmohan Singh denied his government had done anything wrong, blamed the delay in introducing competitive bidding for coalfields on resistance from major coal-rich states that were ruled by opposition parties and said the findings of the state auditor were "clearly disputable".
The BJP has disrupted parliament for more than a week, refusing to stop until Manmohan Singh steps down. It is not yet clear whether it intends to pursue this strategy for the rest of the session, which ends on September 7.
"Parliamentary obstructionism should ordinarily be avoided. However, in the rarest of rare cases, obstructionism also brings its dividends," BJP leader Arun Jaitley said.
If the UPA government fails to prove majority in the lower house, a fresh election is inevitable as the BJP too does not have the numbers to stake claim to the centre.
A Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report said irregularities in coal block allocation resulted in presumptive losses of Rs.1.86 lakh crore ($37 billion) to the exchequer.
Take a look at the scenes from the 50th International Paris Air Show, 2013. It is considered as the world's largest aviation and space industry show, and takes place at Le Bourget airport June 17-23.