New Delhi: Congress on Friday alleged a scam of Rs 45,000 crore in the allocation of mines in Rajasthan and demanded the immediate resignation of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje along with a Supreme Court-monitored CBI probe into the matter.
Months after the party led a clamour for her sacking over the Lalit Modi row, Congress held Raje "guilty" for the allocation of as many as 653 mines in alleged contravention of Centre's policy.
The opposition party also questioned the continued silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard despite his assertion that he would neither take bribe and nor allow anybody to practise corruption.
At a joint press conference at AICC headquarters, PCC chief Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan CLP leader Rameshwar Dudi and chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that the trail in the alleged scam reaches the doorstep of the chief minister, though only a top official has been arrested in the case.
Pilot and Dudi said that the arrest of Principal Secretary (Mines) Ashok Singhvi was significant given that he had held the same position during Raje's previous term.
They accused Raje of causing a loss of Rs 45,000 crore to the state exchequer by allocating 653 mines in Rajasthan on "first-come-first-served" basis without following transparent procedure and by not auctioning them.
This was done despite the Centre telling the state not to do so until the policy in this regard had been formulated, they further claimed.
"This is the biggest scam in Rajasthan... This is the biggest loot in Rajasthan. We demand a CBI probe monitored by Supreme Court. We also demand that the chief minister immediately step down as an independent probe is not possible till she holds the post," Pilot said even as he rejected a probe currently being pursued by the Rajasthan Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Surjewala further alleged that one lakh bighas of land -- which has mineral value of up to Rs 2 lakh crore -- was given away without auction as part of the allocation of the 653 mines.
"Had it been auctioned, Rajasthan government could have earned as much as Rs 45,000 crore," he said.
Meanwhile, replying to a query whether the party would approach the courts in the matter, they said they would raise the issue in Rajasthan Assembly and out on the streets and take all other appropriate steps after obtaining legal advice. Questioning the BJP leadership for not raising any
objections to mine allocations, Pilot alleged that the Raje government has worked against the public mandate by "illegally" allocating mines to a "favoured few" through an "opaque" allocation process without following guidelines and doing proper publicity.
Surjewala charged that thousands of crores have been "swindled" in a period of two-and-a-half months through this 'arbitrary' allocation of mines in contravention of the laid- down rules which specify that they may only be auctioned.
The Mines and Minerals Act, 1957, has been amended to ensure compulsory auction of mines.
"No mines should be given away without auction and the laying down of the procedure. No letter of intent for a prospective licence or mining lease can be given without the Centre's consent.
"The Centre had issued guidelines to the states on November 14 that mines should only be auctioned and, on January 12, 2015, a gazette notification was issued for their compulsory auction. But Rajasthan government allocated 137 mines on the same day (January 12) itself," claimed Surjewala.
Alleging undue haste in the carrying out of mines allocation, he also claimed that file notings show that as many as 10 officers and the minister concerned have put their signatures on a single day.
He said that "perhaps, never in the past has the work been done at such lightning speed".
Raje has been under Congress attack ever since disclosures made by former IPL chief Lalit Modi on her family's business ties with him.
Congress had demanded Raje's resignation along with that of Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj over the Lalit Modi controversy and had stalled Parliament's entire Monsoon session.