New Delhi: BJP President Nitin Gadkari and Congress leader Virbhadra Singh were today at the centre of corruption allegations that came as a severe embarrassment to both the parties.
As details tumbled out of the alleged dubious funding for a company run by Gadkari, Corporate Affairs Minister M Veerappa Moily promised a probe into it.
To add to the discomfiture of BJP, party MP Ram Jethmalani demanded Gadkari’s resignation, asking him not to seek a second term as party President.
Media reports have raised questions over the source of funds for Purti Power and Sugar Ltd controlled by Gadkari.
Media investigations claim that major investments and large loans to Purti were made by a construction firm Ideal Road Builders (IRB) group, which had won contracts between 1995 and 1999, when Gadkari was PWD minister in Maharashtra.
Gadkari has denied the allegations and offered himself and his companies to any probe.
Moily said the Registrars of Companies will “definitely inquire into it… We have not ordered anything. It is all coming in the newspapers. Since it has come in public domain, we told our ministry to make some discreet inquiry to find out what exactly is the matter. Are there any violations of Companies Act?”
When asked by reporters whether the business dealings of Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will also be scrutinised, he said the two issues were separate and there was no link between them.
BJP accused the government of being prejudiced and selective in its approach on the probe into corruption allegations.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the party endorses Gadkari’s stand that he was open to any investigation by any competent authority and asked why Congress was running away from probing the allegations against ministers, like Virbhadra Singh, and Vadra.
Congress leader Digvijay Singh, who has been attacking Gadkari, today wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking an investigation into the dealings of Gadkari’s company.
“Gadkari has also said that he is open to a free and fair investigation. Being the National President of BJP, it is in the fitness of things that his case is properly investigated and he gets a fair opportunity to prove his innocence and clear his name,” Digvijay Singh wrote in his letter.
Congress had its own quota of problems with Virbhadra Singh, who is top contender for the Chief Minister’s post in Himachal Pradesh, being accused of forgery, money-laundering, bribe taking and income tax evasion.
BJP leader Arun Jaitley alleged that Singh had altered his income tax account books from 2008 onwards to show a forged, back-dated contract and a highly inflated income of around Rs 6.5 Crore.
Singh, the former Himachal Chief Minister, had recently come under the scanner following allegations that he had received payments from a steel company which had come to light after raids were conducted on the firm in 2010.
Singh brushed aside the allegations as false, fabricated and incorrect and threatened action against those behind the “malicious” campaign.
BJP’s attack today relates to a contract reportedly signed by Singh with one Vishambar Das giving his orchard for an annual payment of Rs 10.5 Lakh.
BJP alleged that when the diaries of the steel company seized during the raid came out in the open, Singh entered into a back-dated contract with one Anand Chauhan to replace the earlier contract. The amount in the contract with Chauhan adds upto around Rs 6.5 Crore over three years.
“This is a case of bribery, conversion of bribe money through money-laundering into real income, forgery by back-dating an agreement,” Jaitley alleged, maintaining that this was not just a case of tax evasion.
Attacking Sonia Gandhi who criticised BJP on the issue of corruption, Jaitley said, “Had she known this, she would not have shared the stage with Singh. And if she knew and yet shared the stage, she should not have given a sermon on corruption.”
Jaitley demanded probe by a Special Investigation Team comprising three honest police officers.
“This matter cannot be investigated by CBI due to its bad track record. Secondly, in the diaries, CBI is shown as a beneficiary,” the BJP leader claimed.
Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit suspected a conspiracy, saying the timing of charges is “questionable”.
Pointing out that Himachal was witnessing campaign for the upcoming Assembly elections, he said, “there is far more politics than substance” in the allegations.
Lashing out at Jaitley for making the allegations, Virbhadra Singh said the “malicious” campaign against him is being carried out to divert his attention from the election campaign and create confusion in the minds of public ahead of election.
“The information carried out by a section of the media is factually incorrect and details are being put out to create confusion in the public, and even divert my attention from the election campaign,” the Himachal Congress chief said.
Virbhadra Singh said, “the Assessment proceedings are still pending before the appropriate authority for scrutiny. I have not received any questionnaire in this matter from the authority concerned…if there is any query I will reply to everything.”
Contending that “their (BJP’s) ill-timed malicious campaign cannot replace facts and truth”, he said, “I will take appropriate action against those who are involved in such malicious campaign against me after the elections are over.”
Maintaining that people know him more than anybody else going by the 50 years of his public life, he said, “I want to tell those trying to defame me during these assembly elections that I leave to the public of Himachal Pradesh to decide my fate – let the people judge me and let the IT department ask me whatever they wish to.”56