Striking again at political morality, Arvind Kejriwal today 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 activist-turned-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. He said that in the Irrigation Scam, Ajit Pawar gave agricultural land in Maharashtra to Gadkari.
Kejriwal alleged that Nitin Gadkari's business is at the cost of farmers' lives in Maharashtra.
He added that Gadkari didn't just take away their land, but also water. The
water has been diverted to big corporations by Ajit Pawar.
Kejriwal said that "Nitin Gadkari has a huge business empire. We want to know if his interests as a businessman are clashing with that of the farmers. Is it at the cost of the farmers, who are committing suicide?"
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.
Kejriwal said that "in Haryana, Vadra saab is looting the farmers' land. In Maharashtra, Gadkari saab is looting the farmers' land and water. It seems this is one large family with people like Sonia Gandhi, Sushma
Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Salman Khurshid, Kapil Sibal, Mayawati."
India Against Corruption Activist, Anjali Damania
who joined Anna after she came to know about the irrigation scam and got proof that 70 thousand crores have been spent but farmers are not getting any water. She filed appeal in the Bombay High Court. On Aug 15, she met Nitin Gadkari, hoping that because BJP is in the opposition in Maharashtra, it will focus on this scam. His answer shocked her. He said that Pawar and I have a good relationship...they do work for us, we do work for them.
Gadkari later denied any relationship with Pawar or with his party, the NCP.
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."Land in Question Was Given on Lease to a Charitable Trust", Says Gadkari
Rejecting Kejriwal's charges against him of getting land from Maharashtra government, Gadkari said he has been active in Vidharba region of the state as a "social enterprise" to prevent farmer suicides.
Gadkari said the land in question was given on lease to a charitable trust and that he got no personal favours. "The allegations are baseless, wrong and unfortunate...I have been working in the area as a social enterprise for the benefit of farmers...The allegations of land (grabbing) are absurd. Land has been given on lease to a charitable trust which functions like a cooperative. It is not owned by me."
About the charges of a "setting" between him and Ajit Pawar, Gadkari said "Congress' image is going down due to corruption cases and they (IAC) are trying to defame BJP to occupy the opposition party space which belongs to us. This is a conspiracy of Congress and IAC to divide the opposition votes." He refused to elaborate on this issue.
About water for irrigation being directed towards his power plants, Gadkari said "Only 0.85 per cent of this dam water is being used for our power project and the rest goes to farmers for irrigation."
Gadkari added that he was ready for any kind of probe but refused to make public any such letters as demanded by Kejriwal and fellow activist Anjali Damania.BJP Rallies Behind Gadkari
Arun Jaitley said that the press conference held by India Against Corruption was just for publicity and refuted all charges made by Kejriwal. Defending Gadkari, he added that "the alleged plot in Vidarbha is a wasteland and is only in 11-year lease for growing sugarcane saplings." He blamed Team Kejriwal for damaging the credibility of civil society.
Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha also backed Gadkari and said that the party supports him fully and said that BJP is very glad that their party president is not involved in any scam.
"It was wasteland, not farmland as alleged... It is wrongly alleged that it was farm land. Gadkari has provided subsidised sugarcane saplings to farmers of Maharashtra," she said.
The land was acquired in 1983-84 and the dam was built in 1997 and the farmers were paid total compensation during the process, she said.
"IAC also alleged that the dam water is being diverted to Gadkari's business. Only 0.85 per cent, less than one per cent, of water is being used by him. Gadkari has always said that he treats his business as a mission,"
RSS leader M G Vaidya said "I have seen the entire telecast where Kejriwal levelled allegations against Gadkari that he grabbed the land of poor farmers, but found them frivolous. Former Maharashtra Irrigation Minister Ajit Pawar should be asked why
he preferred or favoured Gadkari (his firm) over other applicants (if
any) in allocating the surplus land acquired by the government for a dam."
It seems...Kejriwal group was trying to paint a picture that their (newly-founded) party is better compared to both Congress and BJP," Vaidya said."Pehle Aap": Congress Asks BJP to Explain Themselves First
Congress asked Gadkari to clarify before the nation the "very serious" allegations against him.
"We give the opportunity to BJP first to clarify each and every allegation before the nation. We are waiting for the answer from BJP first", party spokesman Rashid Alvi said.
Taking a dig at BJP, Alvi said "whenever these people make allegations against anyone or against us, BJP not only appreciates it but at the same tune, they make the same allegations without knowing the truth.
"Today, same people are making allegations against them and very serious allegations--not only BJP but its national president is involved", he said.
'Part of BJP's Internal Battle'
Digvijay Singh said, "I have been saying from the very beginning that Nitin Gadkari is more a businessman than a politician. What Kejriwal has said is nothing new."
In an apparent dig at the Kejriwal, Singh also said he would write a letter to Kejriwal to tell him that his intentions were not clear in exposing BJP. Congress has generally maintained that Kejriwal and his team were "B team" of BJP.
Digvijay Singh said that it seemed that Kejriwal was working at the behest of a faction in the BJP and that the press-conference should be seen as a part of an internal battle within the party for its control, hinting at the fact that the RSS-appointed Gadkari, who is due to be reappointed party-President for an unprecedented successive second term in December, is not liked by many in the BJP, including Narendra Modi camp and the Advani camp.
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