"See, you got Shinde wrong. The way false accusations were made on Bofors, false accusations are being made on the coal scam, that's what he meant," Digvijaya told reporters here yesterday.
Addressing a function in Pune on Sept 15, Shinde had quipped: "Earlier, the Bofors was a talking point. People forgot about it. Now it is coal. This too will be forgotten. Once hands are washed off coal, they again become clean."
The opposition did not let go the opportunity to slam the minister. BJP's Balbir Punj pointed out that "In 1984 post-Indira Gandhi's death, when elections happened, Congress had won more than 400 seats. After five years post Bofors scandal, Congress was out of power and its seats got halved. It is a different matter whether people have forgotten Bofors or not but Congress has forgotten what Bofors had done to it. Since then, Congress has not got majority on its own."
JD-U president Sharad Yadav did not hide his displeasure over Shinde's remarks. "He has come to Delhi very recently. His importance is due to Congress party. Better he confines himself to speaking about Home Ministry. He should speak less on political issues," Yadav said.
CPI leader D Raja reminded the ruling party that the fact that it lost elections after Bofors is a message that people gave to the government of the day. "Shinde should remember that he is the Home Minister. He should not take people for granted," Raja said.
On his part, Shinde claimed that he had only been joking. "I had gone to attend the felicitation ceremony of a former schoolmate. He did not make anyone laugh, so I thought let me add some humour to the function. At times it is good to joke but I was not aware that it would backfire on me," the Home Minister said.
Incidentally, when reporters quizzed Shinde about his remark after the function, he came up with a poser of his own, "Do you remember petrol pumps (scam) during NDA rule?"
(With PTI inputs)