Nitin Gadkari’s aide in Chhattisgarh coal scam?

Nitin Gadkari’s aide Ajay Sancheti has reportedly been named in an alleged coal scam in the state of Chattisgarh by the CAG.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: In what could be a major embarrassment for the Bhartiya Janata Party, its national president Nitin Gadkari’s aide has reportedly been named in an alleged coal scam in the state of Chattisgarh by the CAG.

As per reports, the Comptroller and Auditor General has accused the Raman Singh government of serious irregularities in the allocation of a coal block in Sarguja district. According to CAG reports this led to a huge loss to the state`s exchequer amounting to Rs 1,052 crore.

What is more worrying for the BJP is that Gadkari’s close aide, Ajay Sancheti and the party’s Rajya Sabha member has placed under the scanner in the said report. Sancheti became a BJP MP last month

The CAG report has stated that Sancheti`s firm SMS Infrastructure was favoured in terms of cost for the exploration contract given to it for Bhadgaon II Extension coal block. It has been said that the SMS Infrastructure was allotted a coal block by Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation at a throwaway price in which it was the only bidder for it. It has been reported that the firm was allocated the coal block for around Rs 130 per metric ton, while the market price for that region was Rs 552 per metric ton.

The firm is owned by the BJP MP. The block was one of the two blocks that the Centre had allocated to CMDC in 2007. The CAG report was tabled in the Chhattisgarh Assembly last week.

The Opposition Congress in the state has predictably latched on to the new controversy and hit out at the BJP. Congress stepped up demand for the resignation of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh in the wake of a CAG. At a joint press conference at the AICC headquarters, party General Secretary BK Hariprasad, Chhattisgarh PCC Chief Nand Kumar Patel and CLP leader Ravindra Chaubey said that they have also sought the permission of the state governor for prosecution of the CM as also a former chief secretary.

The state Congress leaders alleged that the mineral-rich state has become an "object of loot" through signing of MoUs for setting up power plants and claimed that 65 such MoUs
seeking an investment of Rs 3.25 lakh crore have been signed. The Chief Minister is "directly to blame" for the irregularities in the mining and power sectors as he is also
the Minister in charge of these departments, they said. Congress is pressing for a CBI probe into the allotment of coal blocks at cheap rates.

Meanwhile the BJP today said it "differed" from the conclusions arrived at by the CAG in the Chhattisgarh mining case involving its MP Ajay Sancheti and refuted Congress charges that party president Nitin Gadkari benefited from the alleged financial wrongdoings in the deal.

"We will not engage in the kind of campaign that the Congress is involved in. These allegations are baseless. We understand the worries of the Congress. They are involved in
so many scams. But they should also learn a little about how to read and write," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

He also maintained that the BJP differs from the conclusions drawn by the CAG in this matter. "Bhadgaon II Extension is an open cast mine where mining costs less. It is a part open and part underground mine. It is also near a river and so a wall has to be built to
work as a dam to keep out the water," Prasad said.

Asked if Sancheti and Gadkari were business partners, he replied in the negative. He hastened to add that a leader from any party can also be a businessman provided his dealings are transparent.

"Neither was Gadkari president then (in 2008 when the tender was alloted) nor was Sancheti an MP. Gadkari was BJP Maharashtra unit president. He became BJP President one and a half years later in 2010," Prasad said.

At a time when the BJP is in a belligerent mode at the Centre taking on the Congress-led-UPA for being embroiled in various scams, the timing of the latest storm is bad. The ‘party with a difference’ will have to get its act together if it wants to present a viable alternative to the Congress in the 2014 general elections.

For the BJP president, Nitin Gadkari too, it has been a bad few weeks with him being in the middle of the Jharkhand Rajya Sabha polls and the Anshuman Mishra fiasco also.

With PTI inputs