To a reporter's query whether he had sent any letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2007, Shinde replied that he had merely recommended allocation of one captive coal block to a particular company. The PM held the Coal portfolio at that time while Shinde was the minister for Power.
"I had written the letter on the basis of the reasons given by the company that they would build a power plant. But you know that they did not get any coal block," Shinde said.
In fact, the company was denied the captive block because a thorough check revealed that it was not at all eligible for the allotment. In case its antecedents had been okay, the company would surely have been allocated the block.
Though Shinde should not have made the recommendation in the first place, now the Congress is claiming that he did nothing wrong. Party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury asserted: "Writing of letter does not indict an individual."
She pointed out that legislators are often asked to recommed firms and individuals. Renuka Chowdhury added that Shinde can be faulted only if he had sought to somehow circumvent the rules.
By putting up this line of defense, the ruling party is hoping to absolve Shinde. However, the inherent problem is that the same argument can be put forth by all those who had recommended the allocation of coal blocks.
So far the Centre has been trying to deflect the blame for Coalgate to the opposition-ruled states which had allegedly favoured certain companies.
The UPA may like to see the NDA on the backfoot but Shinde's admission that he had written to the PM back in 2007 could ironically provide fresh ammunition to the BJP.