A day after home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that the coal block allotment issue would fade away from public memory akin to the Bofors controversy, he went into damage control mode.
Shinde, whose statement kicked off a major political storm on Saturday, said that his remark — made in a lighter vein — had been blown out of proportion. The opposition parties, however, told Shinde that the people had forgotten Bofors, but only after the Congress was defeated in the 1989 general elections.
"Whatever I said was in a lighter vein. It created a ruckus," said Shinde at Karad, a town in west Maharashtra, on Sunday.
It all began with Shinde's comments in Pune, while addressing a function in the memory of eminent Marathi poet, the late Narayan Surve. He said: "Earlier, Bofors was the talking point, but people forgot about it. Now it is coal. This too will be forgotten."
"Once coal is washed off your hands, they become clean again," he added, drawing laughter from the audience. However, the opposition parties did not seem to have found it as funny.
CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said Shinde would get a better understanding of the public’s memory in the 2014 elections.
NDA convenor and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, said Shinde should think twice before making remarks like these. "Better he confines himself to home ministry affairs. He should speak less on other issues."
When asked about his comments, Shinde told reporters: "Do you remember the petrol pump scam, which occurred during the NDA's tenure?"