On the bright side, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress Party now has a little ammunition to back up its claim that the Central Bureau of Investigation probe into an alleged corruption scandal involving the allotment of coal mines is proof that the party is serious about seeing the supposed perpetrators brought to justice.
The down side? With corruption looking to be the primary election issue in India for the foreseeable future, the investigation has already thrown up the name of one Congress member of parliament, Maharashtra's Vijay Darda, and a handful of the CBI's suspects share the same last name as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's coal minister. (Notably, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal has denied any ties to Manoj Jayaswal, against whom the CBI has filed a first information report associated with the coal scandal).
The coal minister "promised stern action against lawbreakers, but reiterated his position that the policy of allocating blocks through administrative methods rather than auction was '100 percent correct,' India's Economic Times newspaper reported. "If anyone has resorted to such wrongdoing, then not only his coal block allocation will be cancelled, but he will be in jail. I can guarantee you," the paper quoted the minister as saying.
Later, he got a little more stroppy, after reporters insinuated that his surname (common to everyone from his sub-caste) linked him to a family that figured prominently on the CBI charge sheet.
"Of the five companies raided on Tuesday, three belong to one family - the Nagpur-based Jayaswals," the Times of India reported. "Split in two businesses, they are among the largest beneficiaries in the coal block allocations, holding 10 blocks with more than 900 million tonnes of coal. What is more striking is that they managed to get such a large allocation with only one project running on the ground."
"All Jaiswals are my relatives," was the minister's sarcastic response when asked if his relatives or persons close to him profited from the alleged coal scam, according to another TOI piece. "And yes, lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of persons are close to me."
The companies named by CBI include Navabharat Power, which was acquired by Essar Power two years after it was awarded a stake in a coal block that it shares with half-a-dozen other firms, the Economic Times said. The others are AMR Iron & Steel, JLD Yavatmal Energy, Jas Infrastructure Capital and Vini Iron & Steel.
According to the Times of India, three of the five companies belong to one family - the Nagpur-based Jayaswals. The Jayaswal family reported has sole or controlling interest in AMR Iron & Steel, JAS Infrastructure and JLD Yavatmal Energy.