December 13, 2016 8:42:09 pm
Taking note of a report in The Indian Express and calling it “a clear case of misuse of official position”, the Congress and AAP Tuesday demanded the sacking of Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju after his name and that of his cousin figured in a report of the Chief Vigilance Officer of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) that alleged corruption in the construction of two dams for the Kameng Hydro Electric Project in Arunachal Pradesh.
Under fire, Rijiju rejected allegations of wrongdoing and said those who had “planted” the report against him “will be beaten up with shoes”.
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“Jo news plant kar rahe hain woh hamare yahan aayenge toh joota khayenge,” the Minister told reporters. West Kameng, the site of the project, falls in Arunachal West, Rijiju’s parliamentary constituency.
Rising to Rijiju’s defence, the BJP rejected the charges and alleged a conspiracy between Congress and its “friend”, a reference to Chief Vigilance Officer Satish Verma.
Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said the revelation “involving” Rijiju is a case of “misuse of post” to help his contractor-brother. He said the CVO’s report showed the existence of a scam to the tune of Rs 450 crore in NEEPCO.
Referring to the letter Rijiju had written to the Ministry of Power to release funds to the contractor — his cousin Goboi Rijiju is one of the sub-contractors in the project — Surjewala said “shouldn’t the MoS Home have stated in his letter that it is not just about the people of his constituency but also for his brother who is a contractor in the project.”
“Kiren Rijiju’s conduct in this whole affair is in the realm of suspicion. And there is prime facie proof available. He has no right to continue as MoS Home even for a day. The Prime Minister who talks about transparency and honesty should order a probe by an independent agency. If PM has the courage of conviction, he must either sack Rijiju or ask him to resign and conduct a fair and free probe so that truth comes out…There should also be a probe against all high-level officers associated with the project who have been found involved… and caused a loss to the exchequer,” he said.
He asked whether the “minister’s brother” secured projects running into crores of rupees because of the “minister’s protection”. He said that aspect should also be probed. “This is a serious and complex issue,” he said.
The Congress also released the audio CD of a purported conversation CVO Satish Verma had with Goboi Rijiju on December 29, 2015, in which the latter is heard pushing the officer to clear payments and offering “any help you need from Bhaiya (the Minister)”.
The party also linked the episode to the toppling of the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh and demanded a probe into that aspect too. Surjewala said the conversation had a mention of the goings-on that led to pulling down of the Congress government in the state.
“There seems to be a connection with the making of these payments. Were some of these payments used to buy and sell legislators is a matter that needs to be seriously probed,” Surjewala said.
AAP leader Ashish Khetan also called for the sacking of Rijiju who he said was “trying to sweep under the carpet” the alleged power scam in Arunachal Pradesh.
“Rijiju should immediately be sacked and the Prime Minister should set up a high-level probe to investigate the matter,” Khetan said.
Hitting back, Rijiju said “I had written the letter to the Power Minister after I received representations from some people in my constituency in Arunachal West regarding pending bills. I have done no wrong and there is no corruption.”
He also tweeted copies of the representation he received and the letter he had sent to the Power Minister. “Really cheap!… Is it a corruption helping poor Tribals?,” he said on Twitter.
Stating that the contracts were given and most of the payments made during Congress rule, Rijiju asked the Opposition party to apologise. “I pity Congress party … I feel that Congress should apologise to the nation for creating an issue which is non-existent. If local people have approached me to tell me that bills are pending and the bills are of small amount and what they are saying of Rs 150 crore, it is not like that,” he said.
“Small pending bills, pending since 2012, 2013, 2014 before we came to power, the contracts were awarded when we were not in the government, the payments were made when we were not in the government. I was told that some 20-30 per cent of payments were remaining, NEEPCO was not releasing the money. So I wrote a letter to the Power Minister that look into the matter, that’s it,” Rijiju said.
The BJP rejected the charges against Rijiju, calling them “baseless” and alleged that the Congress was trying to smear his name for the mistakes the party had done when it was in power in Arunachal Pradesh .
BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said Congress and its “friend” — a reference to the CVO — had “conspired” to smear its name. He claimed that the contractor, at the centre of the allegations, was not Rijiju’s cousin.
“It is a completely baseless charge. Congress and its friends have hatched a conspiracy to target BJP as they have not been able to find a single case of corruption against our government… The said project was sanctioned in 2005 when Congress was in power at the Centre as well as in the state,” Sharma said.
The letter written by Rijiju to the Power Minister was meant to help sub-contractors involved in the project as their dues had not been cleared, Sharma said.
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