New Delhi: Two top leaders of the main political parties of India, the BJP and the Congress, face corruption charges. Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari faced fresh graft charges in the Maharashtra land scam while Congress leader Virbhadra Singh was accused of involvement in land scams in Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday.
Amidst the tug-of-war and array of charges and counter-charges between the BJP and the Congress, stood India Against Corruption leader Arvind Kejriwal, who accused the two parties of collusion and being hand-in-glove in corruption. Both parties refuted Kejriwal's charges.
As details tumbled about 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.
While Nitin Gadkari faces fresh charges in the Maharashtra land scam, Virbhadra Singh is accused of involvement in land scams in HP.
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 against Vadra and former Union Minister Virbhadra Singh. The party said it endorses the stand of Gadkari that he was open to any investigation by any competent authority.
The BJP then sought an inquiry into Virbhadra Singh's tax returns and alleged land scams ahead of the elections in Himachal Pradesh. Reports emerged showing that at the time that Singh allegedly received kickbacks, huge cash deposits were made to his business partner Anand Chauhan's account. Singh has been accused of allegedly receiving kickbacks to the tune of Rs 2.3 crore from Ispat Industries when he was Union Steel Minister between 2009 and 2010.
Questions are also being raised over some entries in the income tax documents he has filed as part of his nomination. The entries in the revised tax returns show a 30 times jump in his income from agricultural activities - mainly apple orchards managed by Anand Chauhan.
Ahead of this all, Kejriwal had tweeted on Tuesday morning, "Read today's TOI for big expose against Nitin Gadkari. But would Congress and NCP Chief Sharad Pawar have courage to act against Gadkari? Or BJP-Congress bhai bhai?" Kejriwal's corruption allegations against Vadra, Gadkari and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has resulted in what many are calling the conspiracy of silence.
Congress leader Digvijay Singh, meanwhile, 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.
(With additional information from PTI)