Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Monday accused NDA’s vice-presidential candidate Venkaiah Naidu of land grab in Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore district that was reserved for the poor, destitute and landless. Ramesh claimed that Naidu was “forced” to return this land after public protests and political pressure.
However, in a detailed denial of Ramesh’s allegations, Naidu, said they are entirely false and politically motivated as the Congress leader has raised the issues which were responded to in the past. “It is evident that these issues have been referred to a few days before the election to the post of Vice President of India clearly reflecting on the political motives and the mischievous intentions. This is a clear evidence of the sense of hopelessness and political bankruptcy of the Congress Party,” Naidu said in a written statement.
Naidu earlier told reporters that he felt “really sorry” that the Congress could stoop down to this level by levelling the allegations just days before the vice-presidential polls. Union Minister and senior BJP leader Ananth Kumar said whatever allegations Ramesh has tried to level are “baseless and unsubstantiated.”
At a news conference here, Ramesh alleged that on June 20, 2017, the Telangana government issued a “secret order” exempting the ‘Swarna Bharat Trust’ of Naidu’s daughter from paying development charges of more than Rs 2 crore to the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority.
The Congress leader alleged further that in July 2014, the Telangana government placed an order of Rs 271 crore without inviting tenders for purchase of vehicles for the police from two car dealers – Harsha Toyota owned by Naidu’s son and Himanshu Motors owned by Telangana chief minister’s son. Ramesh also said that the Supreme Court on April 6, 2011 quashed the allotment of 20 acres of land to “Kushabhau Thakre Memorial Trust” of which Naidu was chairman. He said that the Supreme Court also passed strictures against the Madhya Pradesh government in allotting this land in Bhopal on September 25, 2004.
“I think it is incumbent upon Venkaiah Naidu, it is incumbent upon the BJP to provide satisfactory answers, the nation wants to know,” he said. He said Naidu is a senior, experienced and articulate leader and a candidate for the post of vice president for BJP and he should explain to the country and answer the questions raised by the Congress party.
“Naidu has been a great champion of transparency, accountability, integrity and probity in public life, apart from being a master player with words and a poet of sorts. In the same spirit we are asking these questions, those holding the highest public offices must fully disclose their ‘interests’ as also ‘special treatment’ in the shape of state largesse for themselves and for their kith and kin,” he said in his written statement.
Asked if he was alleging corruption by Naidu, Ramesh did not answer and instead demanded answers from Naidu and the BJP. In his statement, Naidu said the issue of land grab was raised by the local Congressmen as early as in 2002 and even moved the courts and the charges of land grabbing were dismissed.
On exemption from paying development charges by the ‘Swarna Bharat Trust’, he said when this issue was raised by the media, the Government of Telangana in their rejoinder dated July 23 clarified that it was not the first and the last to be given such a benefit.
The Telangana government in fact gave details of several other organizations given such exemption including those granted such exemption by the Congress Governments in the state. The government has also clarified that there was nothing in law that prevented it from giving such exemptions.