Defending her government’s decision to buy the 5 per cent NLC shares that Centre proposed to disinvest, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Monday said the shares would otherwise have been sold to private entities.

Joining issue with her arch rival and DMK president M. Karunanidhi, she said that in a letter dated June 8, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had defended the stake sale.

Mr. Karunanidhi had last week said the state government should have remained firm against the stake sale in order to pressure the Centre to drop its move to sell the shares.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said while there was no favourable response to her initial plea for exempting Neyveli Lignite Corporation from SEBI guidelines on public shareholding pattern, she had later offered that her government be sold those stakes.

Subsequently, SEBI okayed the proposal during talks with state government team, she said in a statement.

Mr. Karunanidhi had said that had the government remained firm on its initial demand of not to sell the shares to anyone, and with pressure due to indefinite fast by workers, Centre could have exempted NLC and withdrawn its decision like it did in 2006.

“His remarks are made out of frustration and jealousy…What was Mr. Karunanidhi doing when some amendments were proposed to shareholding pattern of Central PSUs in 2010, when his party was in power in state and Centre,” she said.

He had no right to “belittle” her efforts on the issue, she said, adding, if she had not made the offer on behalf of state government, they would have been sold to private players.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said Dr. Singh had written to her last month saying the NLC’s public character will not change by the stake sale and talks were proposed to win the trade unions’ confidence and that exempting a listed PSU will send negative signals to the market.

“With the Prime Minister placing importance on the thought process of the financial market, it was imperative that a solution possible for the issue was proposed,” she said about her offer for state QIBs buying the shares.

Centre acceded to her demand as it could not (RPT) not decline it under any circumstances she said. She said the right step had to be taken at the right time and described Mr. Karunanidhi’s statement as “venting of his inability.”

In 2006 when Centre made such a proposal, Mr. Karunanidhi, who was then the Chief Minister, initially resisted the move, but had later suggested that the shares be sold to NLC employees.

She had opposed it saying if done so, each employee would have had to shell out Rs. 8 lakh and that it was not practical, the statement said.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National | News