New Delhi, Sept. 3: The BJP today sharpened its attack against the Prime Minister and patted itself for the "masterstroke" in aligning its demands with those of the wider Opposition, assured that its conditions to break the Parliament deadlock had succeeded in cornering the Congress.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley lashed out at Manmohan Singh, saying "accountability and silence" couldn't "co-exist".
His colleagues blamed the Congress, arguing that the conditions their party had set for ending the standoff ' cancellation of coal licences and an independent probe ' was workable.
"The Prime Minister has invoked his right to silence. Right to silence is available to an accused in a court and not to a Prime Minister, who is the holder of the most accountable office. Accountability and silence cannot co-exist. The dignity of the Prime Minister's Office will be enhanced if he cancels all the allocations and comes clean and not by refusing to answer questions," Jaitley said, reiterating the party's demand for scrapping the licences.
Last week, after his statement in the Lok Sabha on the controversial allocations of coal blocks, Singh had said his "silence" was "better" than a "thousand" answers. "It keeps intact the honour of innumerable questions."
Sources said Jaitley had targeted Singh to ward off allegations that the BJP had climbed down from its adamant stand of nothing less than the Prime Minister's resignation.
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said: "The BJP was being accused of stalling Parliament. Now we are ready for a discussion if the government cancels all the coal block allocations and orders a fair and independent probe. All Opposition parties are making a similar demand. The ball is in the government's court."
Party leaders described the BJP's latest strategy as a "masterstroke" and claimed they had defeated the Congress's effort to split the Opposition.
The BJP had earlier appeared isolated when it insisted on Singh's resignation to break the deadlock. Insiders said the move to drop the demand was tactical, and didn't reflect any softening of stand.
The game plan appeared to have succeeded. "Now the BJP too has come around and is saying what we had already demanded," CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said. "Now it is for the government to take the initiative (for resumption of Parliament). It should cancel the irregular licences and order a probe and allow a discussion in Parliament."
The Left leader even appeared to have scaled down his party's demand for cancelling all the licences, saying the government should at least scrap 90 of the 142 coal blocks allotted.
"The government itself has said that out of 58 blocks, mining has not started in 57. Above this some 32 licence holders have been issued showcause (notices) for contract violations. The government should at least cancel these licences which (it) itself feels are irregular," Yechury said.