As Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly Speaker Nirmal Singh’s wife Mamta Singh continued with the construction of her multi-storey bungalow near the ammunition depot near Nagrota despite Army’s serious objections, the BJP here on Monday said that “it (the issue) has potential to damage the image…and dent the stated position of the party.”
Asking its senior leader to resolve the issue by “rectifying” himself, chief spokesperson of the state BJP Sunil Sethi said: “Normally, the party is not concerned about personal issues. The present issue also pertains to Dr Nirmal Singh and he should have resolved it.” “However, the party is taking serious note of the issues…It will be appropriately reported to the leadership,” he added.
The BJP also distanced itself from Singh over his assertion against the Army, with Sethi saying: “We do not agree with it. Our stand is that Army is a very responsible organisation and we all are proud of them…if the Army has taken up an issue, that is required to be answered appropriately by him or by any other person.”
As The Indian Express first reported on Friday, Singh’s wife and Deputy CM Kavinder Gupta also owned land next to the Army depot. Singh received a strong letter from the Army Commander of the 16 Corps telling him to hault construction on the plot since it was illegal and a security risk to the ammunition depot and to the personnel who lived there.
Singh struck back saying the opposition to the construction was “politically motivated.” “They (Army officials) were not making it a personal issue…They were only referring to the stated rule position…he (Nirmal Singh) should have replied to it or approached the court of law,” Sethi said. “However, if the rule position is what the Army says then he should rectify himself,” he added.
The Indian Express had also reported how Himgiri Infrastructure Development Limited, the company incorporated in 2000 by senior BJP leaders in Jammu which was used to buy land next to the Army ammunition depot in Nagrota, owes Rs 29.31 crore to the Jammu and Kashmir Bank. And that its account was declared a non-performing asset (NPA) in December last year. The notices were sent to senior party leaders including present Kavinder Gupta and Lok Sabha member from Jammu-Poonch parliamentary constituency Jugal Kishore Sharma.
Asked about this, Sethi said: “For the party, it is their personal matter until it hurts its public image.” Meanwhile, construction work on the bungalow on the plot owned by Nirmal Singh’s wife is on. Sources said that though the work regarding clearing and leveling of land started much earlier, the actual construction of bungalow started last November. However, it remained suspended for nearly a month after Army objected to it in January this year.
“However, following pressure from the owners, we expedited work in February by deploying additional work force,” said Sarwan Kumar, contractor from Madhya Pradesh. “At present, over two dozen labourers and masons are at work.”
Meanwhile, Jammu Deputy Commissioner Rajeev Ranjan told The Indian Express that the Army has gone to court seeking a stay on the construction. The next hearing in the case is on May 21.