NEW DELHIl (TIP): Arvind Kejriwal on October 17 targeted BJP president Nitin Gadkari, accusing him of receiving personal favours by getting around 100 acres of agriculture land in Maharashtra after the Congress-NCP government there bent rules. Utilising a much-hyped press conference here to ” expose” Gadkari, the activistturned- politician alleged that all parties were involved in a cosy relationship of “looting” the country even though they raise issues against each other just for the sake of it.
Specifically, Kejriwal alleged a quid pro quo between BJP and Congress-NCP government of Maharashtra, saying Gadkari and his party maintained “silence” over various issues of corruption like the irrigation scam surrounding the Maharashtra government. Aided by lawyer Prashant Bhushan and another IAC activist from Maharashtra Anjali 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.
The state 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. Claiming to have letters signed by Ajit Pawar, he said that the then irrigation minister influenced the Vidharbha Industrial Development Corporation even though its secretary objected, saying it could not be done “legally”. “There has been a conspiracy. BJP has betrayed the country. People had hoped that BJP will point fingers at the ruling party when it falters. But to increase his business empire, Gadkari has done setting with ruling parties. “…Gadkari is not a politician. He is not in politics. He is using BJP to increase his business interests. Now the party has also amended its Constitution to give him a second term as president,” Kejriwal claimed.
He said Gadkari’s business links were harming the interests of farmers. Kejriwal alleged that the state government acquired excess land and did not give it back to farmers as per law. Giving an example, he said one Gajanan Ghagde had approached the government seeking return of his land. But the government sat on it for almost two years but when Gadkari wrote a letter seeking transfer of the same land to him, Pawar wrote a letter recommending it in four days, he alleged. “There was action on Gadkari’s letter very fast but a representation by the farmer did not get any response for two years. And when it came, they were not given back,” Kejriwal said.
He said Gadkari has a big business empire and his interests range from power to sugar to ethanol. When asked about allegations that she raised the irrigation scam because her land was being acquired, Damania rejected the allegations and said government letter has made it clear that whose land were acquired would get money or land in return. She alleged that dams were being built in the name of farmers were actually used to supply water to power plants set up by politicians of all hues. Kejriwal alleged Robert Vadra was looting farmers’ land in Haryana while Gadkari was doing the same in Maharashtra.
“We thought Vadra was the son-in-law of the Gandhis. But Sharad Yadav has come to his rescue, Sharad Pawar and Akhilesh Yadav have supported him. We did not know that he is the son-in-law of all of them,” he said. Lawyer Prashant Bhushan alleged, “A corrupt mafia is taking over parties. Parliament has now become a club of corrupt. Good people has no entry there and they had challenged us to enter politics and we have accepted it.”
BJP RALLIES BEHIND GADKARI
Rallying behind Nitin Gadkari, senior BJP leaders rejected charges of any wrongdoing by him in acquiring land in Maharashtra and said the allegations would be fought politically and not legally. Soon after Arvind Kejriwal alleged that Gadkari had acquired large tracts of farm land in Maharashtra through improper means, BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley came out in strong defence of the party chief, saying the charges were “false and baselss”. Addressing a joint press conference, the two leaders took a dig at activist-turnedpolitician Kejriwal, saying he was rubbishing all parties to “hog the limelight”.
“Lot of hype was created about the press conference as if some big bomb is being exploded… He (Kejriwal) tried his best to dig out some scam but could not find anything,” said Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. “We are happy that our national president is not involved in any scam. The party is fully with him,” she said. Dubbing Kejriwal’s press conference as “just like an election rally”, Swaraj said, “We will fight politically. We won’t go for defamation suit.” Jaitley said since Kejriwal was forming a political party, he has the ambition of hogging the “limelight”. “A mountain of what was not even a mole-hill sought to be created… The hitman (Kejriwal) has scored a self-goal.”