Making a slew of corruption allegations against former Union minister and NDA’s vice presidential candidate Venkaiah Naidu on Monday, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said he must disclose his interests before running for the post of vice-president. Evoking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rhetoric of ‘zero tolerance for corruption and wrongdoing’, Ramesh said those holding the highest public offices come clean on certain issues.
Ramesh referred to a ‘secret’ order reportedly issued by the Telangana government on June 20 this year which allegedly exempted the Swarna Bharat Trust — of which Naidu’s daughter is a managing trustee — from paying charges amounting to over Rs. two crore to the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority. “Is it not a fact that such an exemption has no precedent and it has been done because his daughter is the managing trustee of the organisation?” Ramesh questioned.
The Rajya Sabha MP questioned another order reportedly issued in 2014 by the Telangana government for the purchase of vehicles for police forces from two companies, Harsha Toyoto and Himanshu Motors, which are owned by Naidu’s son and the son of the then Telangana chief minister respectively. “Is it not a fact that such an order was placed in contravention of all rules and without even floating a tender?” Ramesh asked Naidu.
Third, he sought to know whether the ‘Kushabhau Thakre Memorial Trust’ was allotted 20 acres of land, valued at a few hundred crores, in Shahpura, Bhopal, when Naidu was the chairman in 2004. The lease deed was registered only in 2007. Ramesh alleged the land was allotted by the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government for a one-time premium of Rs 25 lakh and a yearly rent of Rs 1.
Last, Ramesh accused Naidu of land-grabbing; he said Naidu claimed 4.95 acres of land reserved for the poor and destitute in Andhra Pradesh when he was the BJP national president. “Is it not a fact that on August 17, 2002; Shri Venkaiah Naidu was forced to return this land after public embarrassment and accusations of ‘wrongdoing’?” Ramesh asked.
Ramesh stressed that ‘probity in public life’, ‘accountability to the people’ and ‘transparency’ are essential requisites for India’s democracy, while calling for Naidu to come clean on the allegations of corruption. Naidu has resigned from the BJP since being nominated for the post of Vice-President.