THE ISSUE of Chhattisgarh minister Brijmohan Agrawal’s family acquiring Forest Department land, and also allegedly encroaching on government land, dominated the day’s proceedings in the state Assembly on Wednesday, with Opposition Congress demanding his resignation.
While no substantive discussions could take place on the allegations, as ruling BJP members pointed out that Assembly procedures were not followed, Congress MLAs raised slogans on the floor of the House. They soon breached the well of the House, and were suspended by Speaker Gauri Shankar Agrawal. Brijmohan Agrawal is the Agriculture and Water Resources Minister in the Raman Singh-led government.
The Indian Express has reported that his family members had acquired 4.12 hectares of forest land, allegedly encroached on another tract of 13.90-hectare government land, and acquired 26.83 hectares of government “patta” land to build a resort in Mahasamund district. When the House reconvened before lunch after the Congress members’ suspension, BJP members, led by ministers Prem Prakash Pandey and Ajay Chandrakar, argued that the issue had ended with the suspension, and that no discussion could take place. While Chandrakar argued that as per Assembly precedents the Opposition had to give 24-hour notice if they wanted to raise allegations against a minister, other BJP MLA said that since some of it were before revenue courts, the matter was sub judice, and thus cannot be discussed.
During their suspension, the Congress members protested against both minister Agrawal and Chief Minister Raman Singh on the lawns outside. They accused the government of shielding ministers accused of corruption. Post-lunch, the Speaker said that while matters that are in revenue courts could be discussed in the Assembly, the issue had ended with Congress members’ suspension in the morning. He said the House would move to other issues.
As Congress MLAs continued to raise slogans, demanding a discussion and arguing that no substantive conversation on serious charges had taken place, Agrawal adjourned the House for the day. T S Singhdeo, Leader of Opposition in Vidhan Sabha, said, “This is an extremely serious matter and needs to be discussed. At least four different agencies are involved…the government must answer questions. There is also the question of land that has been given to people from tribal communities….”
“These reports are based on government documents, which have flagged the acquisition of land. If CM Raman Singh is so powerless that he can do nothing despite this (government agencies raising the issue), he will be deemed complicit, and he should resign as well,” Singhdeo said. State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel said while the BJP at the Centre speaks about fighting corruption, it is rampant in Chhattisgarh. “Minister after minister faces charges here, and the chief minister’s son’s name is in the Panama Papers,” he alleged.
Without naming Singh’s son Abhishek, Rahul Gandhi had Saturday alleged during a rally in Bastar that the Chhattisgarh chief minister’s family faces charges in the Panama papers leak. Calling it a “false and politically motivated” charge, Abhishek Singh stated on Sunday that he has no account abroad, nor has he invested in any foreign company.