IAC’s ‘Gadkari bomb’ fails to explode

published on October 18, 2012

Activist Arvind Kejriwal’s much-anticipated bombshell against BJP president Nitin Gadkari created only a minor ripple in the political corridors on Wednesday as the main Opposition came out forcefully to defend its leaders against charges of irregularities in acquiring land in Vidarbha. Gadkari was also quick to dismiss the allegations and offered to face any probe.

Accusing Gadkari of “mortgaging Opposition” for receiving “personal favours”, colluding with Ajit Pawar and usurping farmers’ land, Kejriwal on Wednesday said that 48 hectares of land near a dam in Vidarbha was “illegally” allotted to Gadkari and his companies by the Congress-NCP regime of Maharashtra.

Addressing the media here, Kejriwal and Anjali Damania, alleged that Gadkari was “part of the irrigation scam” in Maharashtra and water meant for irrigation was diverted to power and sugar companies of Gadkari.

The BJP chief wasted no time in refuting Kejriwal’s allegations. He held a press conference for a point-by-point rebuttal of the allegations, and then Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley held another press briefing to make it clear that the entire party stood behind Gadkari. Gadkari pointed out that the land in question was acquired in 1984-1985 and the compensation to every farmer was awarded by 1996.

“Just one farmer applied with the Maharashtra Government to get back his piece of land. Even he was awarded compensation. Even today, when the land is in the possession of our NGO, we have not disturbed that farmer and he continues to till the land,” Gadkari told reporters shortly after Kejriwal’s briefing.

Gadkari claimed the land he got from the State Government through legal means was a wasteland and is now being used to prepare sugarcane saplings provided to farmers of the drought-hit Vidarbha region at less than half the market price.

On IAC’s claims about Gadkari’s power plant receiving water from a neighbouring dam, the BJP chief claimed he received about 0.8 per cent of the total water from the reservoir. “They do not even know that power plant and sugar mills operate from the same complex and are not separate entities. They do not even have an idea whether I am a Member of Parliament or an MLA,” Gadkari said.

But alleging “quid pro quo” between the BJP and the Congress-NCP regime, Arvind Kejriwal alleged that Gadkari used his “cosy relationship” with the ruling alliance for the benefit of his 17 companies.

Kejriwal said that in 2005, as a MLA and BJP Maharashtra President, Gadkari wrote to the Irrigation Minister, Ajit Pawar for providing a sprawling 36.51 acres unused land near a dam to an organisation called Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sanstha. The sanstha is run by Gadkari, who had sought the land on a 99-year lease, Kejriwal said, adding, Gadkari also recommended that the proposal of a company called Gems of India for 11.27 hectares should be granted.

“Within four days, on June 8, 2005 the Irrigation Minister recommended that this letter be tabled in the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) committee meeting scheduled for 22 June 2005. The company later said they don’t want the land and that too allotted to Gadkari’s firm. VIDC passed resolutions numbered 23/2 and 23/3 related to the land which had been acquired from the farmers but not utilized in Khursapur Village, Taluka Umred, District Nagpur in the Vidarbha part of Maharashtra, by the Lower Vena Vadgaon Dam,” said Kejriwal, detailing the land transferred to Gadkari.

Aided by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, Damania, Kejriwal alleged that rules were bent by the Maharashtra government, particularly scam-tainted former Irrigation Minister

Ajit Pawar to benefit Gadkari. He claimed that vast tracts of land were acquired from farmers for building a dam in Umred taluka in Nagpur district and excess land that should have been returned to the farmers was given to Gadkari and his company following Ajit Pawar’s intervention.

Claiming that all political parties were hand in glove in matter of corruption, Kejriwal said the Maharashtra Government, which had rejected in 2002 the farmers’ demand for return of the excess land, took the decision to give it to Gadkari within days of his request in June 2005, Kejriwal alleged.

Alleging that the State Government acquired excess land and did not give it back to farmers as per law, Kejriwal cited the example of one Gajanan Ghagde, who had approached the Government seeking return of his land. The State Government sat on it for almost two years, but when Gadkari wrote a letter seeking transfer of the same land to him, Pawar recommended it in four days, he alleged.

“When Anjali met Gadkari, he had said: ‘How could you expect us to speak against Mr Sharad Pawar? Chaar kaam wo hamare karte hain, chaar kaam hum unke karte hain. This is the problem.’

“All these people are hand in glove. Gadkari has mortgaged the Opposition to create a silence on the corruption of Congress-NCP regime. This is a clear conflict of interest. He is interested in protecting his big business empire ranging from sugar, ethanol and power, by using his clout as major Opposition party’s president,” alleged Kejriwal.

Dismissing Kejriwal’s charges, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said, “We are happy that despite efforts, IAC could not establish a case of corruption involving Gadkari. They exceeded their brief in questioning BJP amending its constitution to give a second term to Gadkari.”

The senior BJP leader was critical of Kejriwal for converting his press conference into an election rally of sorts and quipped that the only thing that the social activist did not do was to ask for votes. “He lashed out at every political party he could have named,” Swaraj said.

At the same her Rajya Sabha counterpart, Arun Jaitley pulled up Kejriwal for making a mountain out of a molehill and suggested that the member of civil society to realise his responsibility as a political person.

Jaitley also dismissed Kejriwal’s press conference as a failed attempt to bring ‘moral equivalence’ between the BJP and the Congress. “Credibility of a crusader is the most important. We fear that in his attempt to bring a moral equivalence between the BJP and the Congress, he has damaged the cause of the civil societies,’ Jaitley said. He called Kejriwal a ‘hitman’ who in his attempt to attack political opponents has done self goals.

Top BJP leaders including Sushma and Jaitley were present at Gadkari’s residence during Kejriwal’s PC to prepare a ‘solid rebuttal’ to his allegations. Sources claimed the BJP brass had an inkling of the matter that Kejriwal was going to raise and Gadkari had in his possession all documents related to the issue

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