Ajit Pawar joins Mukul Roy, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Janardhan Reddy in list of leaders to get clean chit after BJP induction
Monday's developments raise several questions regarding the timing of the decision. Shutting of nine cases in the multi-crore Maharashtra irrigation scam brings back focus on several such cases where political decisions were followed by the resultant immunity from prosecution. From former Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy to former Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, there are a few instances where leaders and politicians found quick redemption (after joining the saffron party) from major corruption cases that could mar their political careers.
The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau on Monday closed nine inquiries related to the irrigation scam. Senior ACB officers, however, clarified that these were routine inquiries into several tenders that appeared to have been floated without following due procedure, and no politicians were being probed in these cases.
The timing of the move is under criticism because the decision comes 48 hours after NCP leader Ajit Pawar tied up with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra and was sworn-in as the deputy chief minister. Pawar is one of the people being investigated in the scam. The officers, however, have said that Monday's development does not impact the over two dozen FIRs registered in the alleged multi-thousand crore irrigation scam.
Even though Pawar has not been named as an accused in any of the nine cases, and the ACB officials on Monday have categorically said that it is in no way a clean chit to the leader himself, the then-ACB DGP Sanjay Barve in an affidavit in November 2018 said that as the minister of Water Resource Department (WRD), scams like the multi-crore Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation scam come under the responsibility of Ajit Pawar.
According to reports, the affidavit stated that the ACB had to examine various opinions of the concerned department during its inquiry with regard to Rule 10 and Rule 14 of the Maharashtra Government Rules of Business and Instructions. These rules make the minister in-charge of the department responsible for all businesses and the secretary of the department is responsible for the careful observance of these rules. "Moreover on 11 November, 2005, Pawar as WRD minister had issued a note which said: "To speed up the projects in Vidarbha, the Executive Director Irrigation is directed to send the projects directly to the minister bypassing the secretary."
Monday's developments raise several questions regarding the timing of the decision. Shutting of nine cases in the multi-crore irrigation scam brings back focus on several such cases where political decisions were followed by the resultant immunity from prosecution. From former Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy to former Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, there are a few instances where leaders and politicians found quick redemption (after joining the saffron party) from major corruption cases that could mar their political careers.
Mukul Roy: Saradha Chit Fund scam and Narada sting scandal
Former Trinamool Congress strongman, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Man Friday, Mukul Roy, joined the BJP in November 2017. He was inducted soon after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had summoned him in the Narada 'sting' case, an undercover operation by a local news channel that showed several other top TMC leaders accepting bribes. Roy is also an accused in the Saradha chit fund scam. Aimed at expanding their organisational base in Bengal, Roy was brought in to strengthen BJP's political presence in the state. When asked about the cases against him, Roy had said, "Law will take its own course." Before joining the BJP, Roy was being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and an FIR was filed against him in the Narada sting case. The investigation into Roy's role, however, has drastically slowed since his induction into the BJP.
Himanta Biswa Sarma: Saradha Chit Fund scam
Once a member of the Indian National Congress, Himanta Biswa Sarma faced several corruption charges. Dubbed the "Amit Shah of North East", Sarma was summoned by agencies and had his home raided in connection with alleged payoffs in water supply scam in Guwahati. The CBI questioned Sarma on 26 November, 2014. The CBI raided his home and the news channel owned by his wife. According to reports, Sarma was accused of receiving Rs 20 lakh per month from Saradha's chairman Sen for helping him run his business in Assam. "Sen alleged politicians, bureaucrats and media barons from Assam had fleeced him and had in a letter to CBI named them." But Sarma was not named in any of the chargesheets. Sarma joined BJP on 28 August 2015 and reportedly has not been called by CBI for examination. The BJP also had campaigned heavily, reportedly even releasing a booklet, accusing Sarma in the water supply scam in Guwahati. Known as the Louis Berger case because of the involvement of the American construction management company, there's a chargesheet by the US Department of Justice under the country's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, alleging that the company paid bribes to an "unnamed minister".
Reddy Brothers of Bellary: Karnataka's mining scam
Mining baron and former Karnataka BJP minister G Janardhan Reddy and his family were part of the BJP when the party ruled Karnataka from 2008 to 2013. The party, however, distanced itself from them after Janardhan Reddy was named as the main suspect in the Rs 16,500 crore illegal mining scam. Before the Karnataka elections in 2018, the CBI concluded its investigations into mining scams worth Rs 16,500 crore against the Bellary brothers. Seven family members were given tickets by the BJP to fight the crucial 2018 Karnataka Assembly polls. The mining magnates had reportedly bankrolled BJP's 2008 election expenses.
And then came Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa's "pardoning" of Janardhan Reddy. "Not only Reddy, many have troubled me when I was chief minister. I've forgotten it and pardoned them all in the interest of the state." His words were in reference to when the mining baron, who was then the Union Minister of Tourism, took a bunch of MLAs to different resorts in a bid to topple the BS Yeddyurappa government due to infighting. Former chief minister Siddaramaiah had reacted to BSY with this tweet:
Very interesting! @BSYBJP has pardoned Reddy in interest of state
1 Which interest of Karnataka is served by pardoning someone who looted thousands of crores of Kannadigas’ wealth?
2 Is it upto you to pardon him?
3 Did you ask PM Modi to direct CBI to formalise the ‘pardon’? pic.twitter.com/50D759dNRr
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) April 27, 2018
Former Congress leader Narayan Rane quit his own party Swabhiman Paksha to be inducted into the BJP in March 2018. The BJP leadership had offered him a Rajya Sabha nomination last and assured him that his claim for a berth in the state cabinet will be considered in the future. Rane, who was under the ED and CBI scanner for dubious deals, money laundering cases and land scams, was suddenly not of any interest to the central investigative agencies.
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