New Delhi: In a move that could further raise the political temperature, the Congress-led Haryana government on Friday said after a quick probe that it found no irregularities in land purchases by Robert Vadra, businessman and son-in-law of Congress party president Sonia Gandhi.
Meanwhile, the registrar of companies (RoC) and the income tax department have begun looking into allegations of dubious funding of Purti Power and Sugar Ltd, promoted by Nitin Gadkari, president of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), drawing charges that the Congress-led Union government is behind these investigations.
The allegations against Gadkari saw the BJP coming under pressure. According to two senior BJP leaders, Gadkari may be asked to resign as president to give the party an upper hand in the political battle corruption.
The top brass of the BJP was slated to meet late Friday evening to discuss the issue. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the party’s ideological parent, is expected to convey its view to the BJP’s top leaders on Saturday.
The RSS said in a release on Friday: “We are deeply saddened by the efforts to drag RSS’ name into these allegations and cast aspersions on an organization of Sangh’s stature.”
Both the BJP and activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal of India Against Corruption criticised the Congress party for the Haryana government’s decision to close investigations against Vadra, accusing the ruling party of double standards in investigating allegations of corruption.
“When Congress leaders’ faces were blackened, they decided to malign us and accused our national president Nitin Gadkari. But he did not sit at home. He faced the media alone and replied to all charges made against him,” BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said at a public meeting.
Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi defended the state government’s report and said the clean chit was not an “eyewash”. The officials involved in the investigation are all “responsible officers”, he said.
A Mumbai-based expert on corporate governance said that while the Congress’ attempt to shield Vadra was “apparent”, the BJP’s contention was not entirely tenable. “In Gadkari’s case, the charge is that his companies had fictitious shareholders and directors. In effect, there appears to have been a manipulation of shareholding and funding, which is a fit case for an enquiry by the corporate affairs ministry,” he said, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. “Having said that, the Haryana government’s process of enquiry (in the Vadra case) was itself improper,” he added. “The income tax department along with the state’s anti-corruption bureau or the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) should have carried out the investigation.”
Kejriwal accused both the Congress and the BJP of being “hand in glove” in trying to save each other. “That was expected. (The) country would be surprised if it were otherwise. In Haryana, all good officers are shunted out. Those in key positions crawl when asked to bend. Now Congress will protect Gadkari and BJP will protect Vadra,” PTI quoted him as saying.
PTI reported that inquiries conducted by the commissioners of four districts in Haryana—Palwal, Mewat, Gurgaon and Faridabad—determined that there was no undervaluation in Vadra’s land deals.
The state government ordered an enquiry after Ashok Khemka, the state’s former director-general of consolidation of land holdings and land records as well as inspector general of registration, alleged that he was transferred out of his position after he began enquiring into Vadra’s land deals in the state.
Khemka, an officer of the 1991 batch of the Indian Administrative Service, began enquiring into Vadra’s deals on suspicion that he had bought land at prices lower than the government notified rates and then sold them to private developers including DLF Ltd at much higher prices.
One case relates to a 3.5 acre plot of land in the Manesar-Shikhopur region of Haryana, which was sold to Sky Light Hospitality, a company promoted by Vadra, for Rs.7.5 crore in February 2008, and subsequently sold to DLF for Rs.58 crore a few months later.