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ACTIVIST-TURNED-POLITICIAN Arvind Kejriwals India Against Corruption Wednesday alleged that BJP president Nitin Gadkari sought and secured for a trust run by him 37 hectares of land which was acquired by the Maharashtra government to build a dam in Vidarbha but eventually not used.
It claimed the allotment was made in violation of rules and alleged a nexus between Gadkari and the Nationalist Congress Party,saying the land was allotted by Ajit Pawar,the then irrigation minister.
IAC claimed that 31.598 hectares of land was given to Gadkaris Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sanstha in Wardha in 2005 and 5.36 hectares in 2007,overruling the objections of the irrigation secretary and despite villagers demanding that they wanted to buy back the unused land. According to rules,excess land should either be returned to farmers or leased out to them for farming,IAC said.
The IAC allegations were made at its much-talked about press conference,rescheduled twice after the organisation earlier this month accused Congress president Sonia Gandhis son-in-law Robert Vadra of being involved in suspect land deals and receiving favours from real estate giant DLF. Vadra and DLF have both denied any wrongdoing.
Gadkari and the BJP also rejected the IAC allegations and said they would be fought politically and not legally. Gadkari dismissed the charges as baseless and termed them as part of a conspiracy to malign the BJP as the image of the Congress was being damaged by alleged corruption scandals. BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj said Kejriwal was rubbishing all political parties to hog the limelight.
While Kejriwal alleged a quid pro quo between Gadkari and the Congress-NCP government in his home state of Maharashtra,he and his IAC colleagues Prashant Bhushan and Anjali Damania also alleged that rules were bent by the Maharashtra government to favour Gadkari.
When Gadkari receives a favour from the ruling coalition of Congress-NCP in Maharashtra in the form of irrigation dam water and farmers lands,what does he offer in return as quid pro quo? He assures them that as opposition,he would not allow his party to speak against the ruling establishments corruption. He assures them that even if his party is forced to oppose due to media pressures or political compulsions,the opposition would merely be cosmetic, Kejriwal alleged. Gadkaris business interests were hurting the farmers of the region,he added. The deal in question,IAC said,involved the acquisition of land in Khursapur village in Umred taluk in Nagpur district to build the Lower Vena Vadgaon Dam.
Kerjiwal said Gadkari had on June 4,2005 written to the then irrigation minister Ajit Pawar requesting that 36.51 hectares of unused acquired land should be given to Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sanstha,Wardha on a 99-year lease and he also recommended that the proposal of Gems of India for 11.27 hectares should be granted. Kejriwal did not say to whom Gems of India belonged.
He said that within four days of Gadkari writing the letter,Pawar recommended tabling of the letter in the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) committee meeting on June 22,2005. In resolution number 23/2 it was agreed 31.598 hectares of land which was acquired from villagers but not utilized in the Lower Vena Vadgaon Dam should be given on lease by a special grant to Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sanstha,Wardha. It was further decided that 5.36 hectares should be given to Gems of India,Nagpur, IAC said,quoting from what it said was a VIDC resolution signed by Pawar and the then irrigation secretary.
Kejriwal claimed that the allotment was in violation of rules. He quoted an April 6,2005 order of the Maharashtra government which said irrigation development corporations should not lease or rent any additional land that has been with them for a prolonged period of time to private organisations.
IAC said Gadkaris trust received 5.36 hectares of land which was given to Gems of India in 2007 after that organisation said it could not lease the land. It said Gadkari had written a letter seeking this land which adjoined the plot given to his trust in 2005.