New Delhi/Mumbai: Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's remarks that the coal issue will soon fade away from public memory like Bofors today drew sharp reaction from the Opposition which said people will not forget Congress deeds and this will be seen in the next Lok Sabha polls.
On his part, Shinde sought to downplay the controversy. "I said something jokingly. The media quoted me out of context," he told PTI when asked about the criticism.
Earlier at a function in Karad, Shinde said, "Sometimes you say something in jest. But it boomerangs on you."
BJP leader Balbir Punj said 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's 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," he said.
In Kolkata, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said people will not forget the "deeds" of Congress and would give it a befitting reply in 2014 general elections.
"By 2014, Mr Shinde will understand how short public memory really is," Karat said in reply to a question on Shinde's remarks.
CPI's D Raja also 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. "Congress party and Shinde should remember this," he said.
JD-U President Sharad Yadav, who described Shinde as his "old friend", advised him to concentrate more on his ministry.
"Shinde 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.
"Shinde has spoken out the attitude of the UPA government," Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said in Mumbai.
"One can be oblivious if hands are blackened, but how can one be oblivious if his face is blackened ? His statement is disgraceful," added Sena MP Sanjay Raut.
Addressing a function in Pune yesterday, Shinde said, "earlier 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 Home Minister said sending ripples among the audience gathered for an award distribution ceremony in memory of eminent Marathi poet late Narayan Surve.
When reporters quizzed Shinde about his remark after the function, he said, "Do you remember petrol pumps (scam) during NDA rule?".