Union tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay at a news meet in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Aug. 31: Union tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay today blamed the BJP for conspiring to embroil him in a coal block allocation controversy, but his defence left several unanswered questions on the timing of his request to the Prime Minister in favour of a company with links to his brother.
Speaking out for the first time since his name got embroiled in the coal-gate controversy, Sahay claimed he had no role to play in the allocation of a coal block to SKS Ispat and Power in 2008.
“The entire campaign to malign me was started by M/s Prakash Industries. The promoters of this company are Ved and Jai Prakash Agarwal who are closely associated with BJP and RSS for more than 40 years. They failed to prove anything against me in the court of law and now again they, along with BJP, have come with all fabricated allegations,” said Sahay.
Prakash Industries was allocated 2.7 per cent of Vijay Central Coal block in Chhattisgarh, along with SKS Ispat that was allotted 16.08 per cent, after the 36th meeting of the screening committee on February 7, 2008, two days after Sahay wrote to the PMO recommending the company.
Prakash Industries took the Union minister to court alleging that SKS had links with Sahay’s brother, Sudhir Kant Sahay, who had apparently represented it as director during the coal ministry’s screening committee meeting for the allocation of blocks.
For the Union minister, herein lay the germs of the controversy surrounding him and alleged that since Opposition leader Arun Jaitley represented Prakash Industries in the case, this was a pre-planned attempt to malign him.
“The decision to allocate the coal block for SKS had been taken way back in September 2007 by the 35th screening committee. Therefore, there is no basis in allegations that within 24 hours of my writing the letter, coal blocks were allocated by the PMO or the coal ministry, a view that has also been upheld by the court,’’ Sahay said.
However, what Sahay didn’t say was that the 2007 allocation and the 2008 request for allocation were for two different coal blocks. The 2007 allocation was for Fatehpur Coal block and the 2008 allocation was for Vijay Central Coal block, both in Chhattisgarh.
Sahay said Sudhir, whom everyone knew as his brother, was associated with SKS as independent professional engineer. He wasn’t the owner of the company. “I deny that I have recommended SKS because my brother is associated with the company. I want big companies to come to my state (Jharkhand) and I would recommend private companies again in the future if it’s for the betterment of the state.”
Asked if it did not tantamount to misuse of office as his brother was connected to the company, Sahay said, “I would not recommend any person on the street. We recommend somebody only after checking his antecedents.”
Only, the two coal blocks he recommended were both in Chhattisgarh and not in Jharkhand which is his home state. Sources also indicate that the minister’s brother Sudhir wasn’t an honorary director of SKS, but owned at least 45 per cent stake in the company.
Asked if he would resign over the issue, Sahay retorted, “for what”.