New Delhi: BJP President Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday rejected allegations that he had acquired land in Maharashtra in an improper manner and expressed readiness for any kind of probe while his party leaders rallied behind him with a vow to fight the charges politically.
Soon after Arvind Kejriwal levelled the allegations, Gadkari dismissed these as "baseless, wrong and unfortunate" and said the activist-turned-politician was trying to usurp the opposition space in collusion with Congress whose image has suffered due to corruption cases.
"The allegations of land (grabbing) are absurd. Land has been given on lease to a charitable trust which functions like a cooperative. It is not owned by me," Gadkari said.
"I am ready for any kind of probe," he said, while claiming that the land (about 100 acres) was a wasteland valued at only Rs 20 lakh.
The land has not been given to a private company or an individual. It is not personal," he insisted.
The BJP leader also accused Arvind Kejriwal of colluding with the Congress in targeting him. "This is a conspiracy against me."
Earlier, addressing a press conference in the national capital Kejriwal said Gadkari, who has a huge business empire, has encroached upon farmers’ land in Maharashtra, particularly Vidarbha.
The IAC activist said Gadkari was running his business at the cost of Vidarbha farmers who have been committing suicide.
Referring to research done by RTI activist Anjali Damania, Kejriwal said Rs 70,000 crores had been spent on irrigation projects in Maharashtra but farmers were still not receiving water.
Kejriwal accused the BJP and the NCP-Congress government of colluding in Maharashtra.
Kejriwal said Damania had met Gadkari to ask him to raise the issue, but the latter refused saying he would not be able to speak on the issue and that he had good ties with Sharad Pawar.
The reason behind this, Kejriwal said, was that Gadkari was himself involved in encroaching upon land and water in the region.
The IAC activist said the state irrigation department had acquired farmers’ land for a dam project in Umrad, but around 100 acre land was left unutilized even after the project completed.
According to Kejriwal, the irrigation department headed by the then Irrigation Minister Ajit Pawar did not return the land to the farmers but sold it off to Gadkari and a firm in June 2005. That company also later surrendered the land, which was too transferred to Gadkari’s company.
Kejriwal asked when Gadkari too is doing farming on the said land, why was it not returned to original owners, the farmers?
Kejriwal further alleged that the water from the dam built was not being used for irrigation purpose but diverted to Gadkari’s firms as well as other companies. Most of these firms operate power plants, sugar mills etc, he added.
With PTI inputs
First Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012, 18:42