Coalgate: Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai under fire



Coalgate: Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai under fire New Delhi: Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai on Friday denied allegations of nepotism and wrongdoing in coal block allocations but admitted he had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recommending a steel company of which his brother was an honorary director.

Talking to mediapersons here, Sahai accused the BJP of making "fabricated allegations" and said the demand for his resignation was politically motivated.

He said similar allegations were levelled at him in a petition and the Delhi High Court had dismissed these in its "findings."

"The answer to false allegations is (court) judgment," Sahai said.

The minister said his brother, Sudhir Sahai, was not a director but honorary director of SKS Ispat and Power Ltd, a company which was allocated coal block for captive consumption.

Asked about charges that SKS Ispat was allocated a coal block a day after he wrote a letter to the prime minister, Sahai said the blocks had already been allocated when he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

"The Fatehpur coal block was allocated to SKS Ispat and Prakash Industries much prior to my letter to the PMO," Sahai said.

He said SKS did not stand for Subodh Kant Sahay but for Shri Krishna Structures.

According to Sahai, the application for allotment of Fatehpur coal block was written by SKS Ispat in January 2007.

He said the screening committee decided to allocate the coal block jointly to SKS Ispat and Prakash Industries Limited in September 2007 and the offer letter was issued by the coal ministry in November 2007.

"My letter was written to the prime minister regarding two coal blocks for steel plants in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand Feb 5, 2008," Sahai said.

He said Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh was aware of the allocation and said that Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had represented one of the parties in the case before the Delhi High Court.

The minister said he did not keep "a day to day" track of his brother's professional activities.

"He is neither a shareholder nor a director of the company. He is honorary executive director. Sudhir Sahai is completely independent as far as his professional and business activities are concerned," Subodh Kant Sahai said.

The BJP had asked the minister to explain whether he has any relation with the director of SKS Ispat. The party had also asked the minister to make it clear if Sudhir Sahai was present at the meeting of screening committee held Feb 7, 2008, where the coal block was reportedly allocated to SKS Ispat.

Subodh Kant Sahai accepted he had written the letter to the prime minister seeking his intervention for coal block allocation for SKS Ispat but claimed he had done so for the development of Jharkhand.

Asked if it amounted to misuse of his office, the minister said he did not make recommendation without checking credentials.

"Recommendation is done after seeing capacity," he said.

Sahai had written the letter to Manmohan Singh Feb 5, 2008, seeking his intervention for allocation of two coal blocks to SKS Ispat. The PMO wrote to the coal secretary the very next day, recommending appropriate action.

Asked if he had informed the prime minister about his brother's association with the company while recommending it for coal block, the minister evaded a categorical reply.

Sahai alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was maligning him over the coal block allocations.

"The BJP is known to frame lies and that's the reason they are not letting the parliament function. The allegations against me are a bunch of lies," he said.

IANS