Says no conflict of interest in his recommendation for a coal block to SKS Ispat

Under fire for his alleged role in recommending allocation of a coal block to a private company, Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai on Friday termed baseless the charges and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of spreading lies about him and his family.

“The BJP has stalled Parliament functioning for the past several days. They are now trying to sustain their boycott of Parliament by spreading lies and targeting me and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal. This is the style of the BJP and this is how it works. But I will not take it lying down. I am here to clear the cloud over the whole controversy being sought to be generated,” Mr. Sahani told a press conference here.

Asked whether he would quit owning moral responsibility for recommending a private company for allocation of a coal block, and in the wake of demands for his resignation, Mr. Sahai shot back: “Why should I resign?”

Showered with questions about his letter to the PMO seeking allocation of a coal block to the company in which his brother, Sudhir Kumar Sahai, had business interests, Mr. Sahai said his brother was just an ‘honorary director’ in SKS Ispat and cited the Delhi High Court order to buttress his point.

Asked again if he had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention in getting a coal block for the company, Mr. Sahai said he had indeed written this letter but had sought the intervention of the Prime Minister for the development of the State. “I have done it for the development of the State. In future also, I would make such recommendations for the development of my State [Jharkhand],” he remarked.

However, Mr. Sahai said his recommendation for a coal block to SKS Ispat did not involve a conflict of interest or amount to misuse of his official position. To a question, he said he had not informed the Prime Minister that the recommended company had connection with his brother. “I would not recommend any person on the street. We recommend somebody only after checking his antecedents,” he added.

Mr. Sahai said Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh was aware of the allocation and added that Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley represented one of the parties as an advocate before the Delhi High Court. It was on February 5, 2008 that Mr. Sahai wrote to the Prime Minister, seeking his personal intervention for allocation of two coal blocks to SKS Ispat and Power Limited. The very next day, the PMO wrote to the Coal Secretary recommending appropriate action.

On the letter to the PMO, he further said the High Court had observed that his letter to the PMO had nothing to do with the allocation of a coal block for the power project.

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