Gehlot Treads a Minefield

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All in the family Gehlot (left) is alleged to have flouted norms in favouring his family members who own factories at Mandore stone park
All in the family Gehlot (left) is alleged to have flouted norms in favouring his family members who own factories at Mandore stone park. Photo: Harna Rayana Shrimali

Rajasthan BJP Vice-President Arun Chaturvedi also rubbishes Pareek’s claim. “If these are the criteria according to which the government gives concessions, then how were only a few stone factory owners given benefits?” he asks. “When the government uses its discretion for some work, it should see how much it would benefit the state.”

The list of irregularities is a long one. The biggest aberration is that none of the mine allottees at Bada Kotecha have obtained clearance certificates from the Rajasthan Pollution Control Board.

Some experts also say that the allocation of this land is legally invalid. According to a Supreme Court order, pasture land cannot be allotted for mines. Between 2007 and 2012, the Rajasthan government rejected more than 4,000 applications for lease of mines on the basis of this order. Bada Kotecha is registered as pasture land in Revenue Department records and the government has allocated mines in disregard of the Supreme Court order.

THIS IS not the first time that Gehlot has been accused of providing undue benefits to his family members. In 2011, when the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government at the Centre was feeling the heat in various scams, such as the 2G spectrum and the Commonwealth Games, Gehlot added to his party’s troubles by giving undue benefits to his son, daughter and son-in-law.

Gehlot was accused of giving undue benefits to two companies — Triton Hotels and Om Motels — which had employed his son, Vaibhav, as a legal adviser. In the first case, to facilitate Triton Hotels open a hotel in Jaipur, the Gehlot government changed the land use from agriculture to commercial. Another interesting fact is that Triton Hotels owner Ratankant Sharma has a 50 percent partnership in Vaibhav’s company, Sunlight Car Rental Services.

Meanwhile, Om Motels was not only allocated a 160 MW power project in Jaisalmer, but was also awarded road and water scheme projects worth Rs 1,000 crore.

In 2011, Gehlot was accused of favouring Kalpatru Group, which had given promotions and an apartment in Mumbai worth crores to the chief minister’s daughter, Sonia, and son-in-law, Gautam Ankhand. The company was also given 400 acres around the Jal Mahal in Jaipur, worth Rs 3,000 crore, for building a resort in lieu of an annual lease of just Rs 2.5 crore.

Although Gehlot had been in the news for giving undue benefits to family members, the mine lease allocation case is the most serious. It is for the first time that the chief minister has acknowledged that three of his family members have been given mine leases and that the government has used its discretionary powers in the allocations while relaxing the rules.

The mining scam is definitely a cause of concern for the Congress. Gehlot’s clean image has taken a beating and this could prove to be harmful for the chief minister in an election year. Gehlot will have to grapple with foes both within and outside his party. The scam has given a fillip to Union Minister of Corporate Affairs Sachin Pilot and Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways CP Joshi, who have been nursing ambitions of becoming the chief minister of Rajasthan.

The BJP has already announced that it would raise this issue in the election campaign. “It is a different and serious matter as the chief minister bent the rules which benefited his family members,” says BJP national spokesman Prakash Javadekar.

In the run-up to the 2008 Assembly election, Gehlot had campaigned extensively against the then chief minister and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje Scindia, highlighting her role in the infamous haveli scam. This is the best chance for Vasundhara to settle old scores with Gehlot.

Translated from TEHELKA Hindi by Saif Ullah Khan

letters@tehelka.com

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