New Delhi: The ruling Congress party and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) levelled corruption charges against each other ahead of state assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year.
To make things worse for the Congress, anti-graft activist Arvind Kejriwal and his associates accused Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, of corruption on Friday.
Kejriwal, who has launched a new party after breaking ranks with activist Anna Hazare, and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan alleged that Vadra, husband of Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka, has purchased at least 31 properties mostly in New Delhi worth over Rs.300 crore for which money has come from “unsecured interest-free loans from DLF Ltd”.
They also alleged that the bulk of the properties purchased from real estate firm DLF are at a price that is far below the market price.
The activists questioned whether it could be a “quid pro quo” for DLF as it had benefited to the tune of around 350 acres of land in Haryana, which is ruled by the Congress. Releasing copies of documents from the ministry of corporate affairs showing Vadra’s ownership of the companies that hold the properties, they sought an independent investigation into the allegation. Mint could not independently verify the authenticity of the documents.
The allegations came two days after the Election Commission announced the schedule for elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
The Congress party dismissed the allegations as baseless. “This is not political conspiracy, but is political chicanery... the so-called civil society which is trying to forge into a political outfit is nothing else but a B-team of BJP. They are two sides of one coin,” said Manish Tewari, Congress spokesperson.
A DLF spokesman said all business transactions with Vadra were completely transparent and that they had “adhered to highest standard of ethics”.
The BJP demanded a “proper and fair” investigation into “the source of funding and the credentials of the involved companies”.
Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “It raises important questions. It’s a straightforward matter of quid pro quo. There is a possibility of the state governments having given favours to (DLF).”
Earlier in the day, the ruling Congress party attacked BJP president Nitin Gadkari over a letter written by him to the Union government seeking an early release of funds of some contractors associated with controversial irrigation projects in Maharashtra.
“Definitely, the contractor is someone for whom he is very concerned. This requires an explanation. It should be thoroughly probed to find out after all what is the matter,” party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters.
Meanwhile, an official release from the Prime Minister’s Office clarified that the public exchequer didn’t incur any expenses on account of the overseas visits or medical treatment of Congress chief Gandhi.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had alleged that Gandhi’s trips abroad had cost the government around Rs.1,880 crore. “The Prime Minister’s Office would like to put on record that the government has incurred no expenses on UPA chairperson’s visits abroad. Expenses for her security contingent are borne by the Special Protection Group.”
The PMO added that the UPA chairperson’s visit to Belgium, undertaken at the invitation of that government to receive a national honour, was paid for by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. The total cost was less than Rs.3 lakh, it said.
With parties in election mode, the BJP has clarified that it would welcome estranged party leader and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh back into the fold.
Singh, a prominent leader of the backward Lodh community, however, remained noncommittal in his response when asked about his plan to return to the BJP. Kalyan Singh had joined the Samajwadi Party for a brief period but floated a new party in 2010.
Mint’s Madhurima Nandy in Bangalore and PTI contributed to this story.