Amid the Opposition’s attack over the investment of over Rs 2,600 crore of UP power corporation employees’ provident fund in scam-hit housing finance firm DHFL, the BJP government on Sunday blamed the previous Samjawadi Party government, saying that the “dubious” decision was taken by Akhilesh Yadav government in April 2014 and the process of investment was further carried forward in 2016. But the Opposition hit back, demanding resignation of state Power Minister Shrikant Sharma.
On Saturday, the state government had recommended a CBI probe into the investment. Two persons — the then secretary Praveen Kumar Gupta of the UP State Power Employees Trust and UPPCL’s Provident Fund Trust, and UPPCL’s erstwhile Director (Finance) Sudhanshu Dwivedi — were arrested on Saturday after an FIR was registered at Hazratganj Police Station in Lucknow by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW).
Addressing a press conference here, minister Sharma said: “During Akhilesh Yadav’s regime — on April 21, 2014 — the board of trustees decided that if there were safe and high-interest options such as banks, then they should be discussed. Director (Finance) was appointed to take help of investment consultant, if necessary. Akhilesh Yadav, then the CM, prepared a route for corruption in 2014 itself. Later in December 2016, trust secretary Praveen Kumar Gupta and Director (Finance) Sudhanshu Dwivedi started investing in Punjab National Bank’s housing fixed deposit in agreement with Managing Director (MD) AP Mishra… On March 17, 2017, when Akhilesh was Chief Minister, Gupta and Dwivedi deposited the amount in private sector’s DHFL without informing the MD or UPPCL chairman.”
“It is funny and shameful that though the government is acting against corruption with a great speed, leaders of parties that are involved and expert in corruption are commenting on the government of Yogi Adityanath,” the minister added.
Hitting out at the SP chief, Sharma said, “He (Akhilesh) is trying to put our government in the dock alleging corruption, but he should reply why his government prepared the ground for corruption. Was the entire matter not going on Akhilesh’s directions?”
The Energy Department portfolio was with Akhilesh at that time, he added.
The Samajwadi Party hit back at the BJP and dubbed the allegations “false”. “The ruling party, which is neck deep in corruption, is diverting attention of the public. It is levelling false allegations due to politics of hatred,” it tweeted. “BJP minister Sharma ji who has taken a donation of Rs 20 crore from DHFL must answer ‘yeh rishtaa kya kehlaata hai’ (what is this relationship called)?”
Sharma also lashed out at Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who had tweeted, “The BJP government in UP invested the money from the provident fund of the state’s power corporation personnel in a defaulting company like DHFL. Whose interest was to be served by investing more than Rs 2,000 crore of the employees’ hard-earned money in such a company? Is it justified to play with the future of the employees?”
Demanding the resignation of Sharma as power minister, Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh said, “Why the BJP, which teaches lessons of morality, is not seeking the resignation of the energy minister of Uttar Pradesh? After such a major scandal in the UP Power Corporation, why the Chief Minister is fixing blame on ‘chhote log’, and not sacking the Power Minister. Will Yogi ji tell as to why is the energy minister not being removed?” State Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu said the party would launch an agitation against the scandal and continue to fight for the employees unless “every single penny is recovered”.
While the minister claimed that the government speedily acted and ordered a probe within two days of receiving a complaint from an unnamed person on July 10 this year, he refused to answer if incumbent UPPCL chairman Alok Kumar would be held accountable for it.
“The report was presented by the inquiry committee on August 29, 2019 which confirmed that serious financial irregularities have been committed. It was found that more than 99 per cent of the trust amount was invested in only three housing finance companies in which more than 65 per cent was in DHFL…. On October 1 this year, the vigilance wing of power corporation was directed to investigate the matter in detail. On October 10, the then secretary of the trust PK Gupta was suspended and departmental inquiry was ordered. Later, on the recommendation of the vigilance wing, an FIR was registered against Gupta and Dwivedi,” he said. On recovery of the money, Sharma said the government will ensure that the UPPCL employees and officials get their money.
(With PTI inputs)