Last week’s monsoon session of the Chhattisgarh Assembly was rocked by the issue of Speaker and BJP leader Gauri Shankar Agarwal illegally occupying 4.5 acre of government land in the heart of Raipur. Agarwal constructed a Hanuman temple, a Satsang Bhavan, a garden and 19 shops on the land.
While the Raipur collector has noted Agarwal “has not yet removed the encroachment” and the BJP has admitted “Agarwal committed a mistake”, CM Raman Singh continues to back the Speaker, saying “it is not proper to level charges against a Constitutional post”.
The Congress has sought a no-confidence motion against Agarwal as well as his immediate removal. However, despite a Lokayukta case against him and the Raipur administration’s order to take control of the land, Agarwal has continued as the Speaker.
His temple and the complex, too, remains intact. Recently, BJP minister Brijmohan Agarwal, standing beside the temple, said, “Congress has always been against religion.” The CM, meanwhile, sought an apology from PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel in the Assembly for raising the issue.
In 2009, the Supreme Court had passed a judgment prohibiting any unauthorised construction in the name of temple, church, mosque, etc at public places. Despite protests by locals, Agarwal acquired the land illegally in 2008 and started construction. At the time, he was chairperson of the Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation and trustee of Chhagan Lal Govind Ram Agarwal Trust, named after his grandfather. The complex was built by the trust.
After four years of construction, the complex was inaugurated by Singh on April 28, 2012. The CM attended the function with his family and senior ministers, and the state government’s PR department issued a press release for the event, which continues to be on the website of the department.
According to an application seeking a power connection for the complex, accessed by The Indian Express, the complex receives electricity on the “domestic connection” of Gauri Shankar Agarwal and a 5 KVA transformer is installed in the complex in his name.
“He gave an affidavit that he wants power for domestic use but diverted it for commercial purposes. How can such a person occupy the high Constitutional post of a Speaker? All this went on unchecked for years, which shows the power department also colluded with Agarwal,” said Baghel.
Agarwal also faced flak recently when it emerged he had installed 48 ACs in his official accommodation.
In May 2012, Rakesh Chaubey, president of the NGO, Hamar Sangwari, filed a petition before the Chhattisgarh Lok Ayoga against the illegal acquisition and sought action against senior officials, including the Raipur collector, who allegedly facilitated the acquisition and subsequent construction. The collector responded two years later. In a June 7 letter to the Lok Ayoga, collector Thakur Ram Singh claimed since Agarwal “has not removed his encroachment, an order has been passed to acquire the property and hand it over to the Raipur municipal corporation”.
However, the land continues to be with Agarwal’s trust. When The Indian Express visited the site last week, it found there is no sign of the municipal corporation in the area.
During the Assembly session, the Congress sought to introduce a no-confidence motion against Agarwal, but he refused. “It’s a rare case when the Speaker is hearing the case against him, (which is) against the principles of natural justice. He should have stepped down until the charges were cleared, but the BJP has little morality left,” Congress spokesperson S N Trivedi said.
BJP spokesperson Sanjay Srivastava said, “Agarwal committed a mistake, but his intentions were right.”