‘Gogoi must sack tainted ministers, face full inquiry’

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Former Assam CM Prafulla Kumar Mahanta tells Kunal Majumder that Tarun Gogoi is raking up old cases to hide current Congress scams

Photo:  Shailendra Pandey

Suddenly you are back in the news with corruption charges against you. What happened?
A PIL was filled in the Supreme Court against me nine years ago on a Letter of Credit (LoC) scam. [Mahanta was accused of being involved in a Rs 400 crore scam of purchase of land by the state veterinary department in the 1990s.] Suddenly it was withdrawn. Now theAssam government, which has been facing the heat over the Rs 1,000 crore North Cachar (NC) Hills scam, is using this excuse to divert the attention of the public and the media from this big financial scam. [NC Hills scam involves militants swindling development funds meant for the area.

But aren’t you making these allegations in retaliation?
Why didn’t they take steps against me in the past nine years? When a PIL was filed in the Gauhati High Court against me in the LoC scam case, the high court had accepted the views stated by the then Governor Lt Gen SK Sinha in his book and rejected the PIL.

The government spokesperson says the governor merely withheld his decision. He never exonerated you.
Sinha had clearly mentioned in his book that he could not allow the CBI to prosecute me due to lack of prima facie evidence against me. Tarun Gogoi should read Sinha’s book and the high court ruling of 1999 on the PIL before accusing me. Moreover, the CBI has already investigated the case and the matter is sub-judice.

Instead, Gogoi should face a proper inquiry for the NC Hills scam. As the then Home Minister [a portfolio Mahanta held as the Chief Minister], I had to face the high court in the LoC scam case and a number of commissions in the secret killing (of ULFA relatives) cases, but why is Gogoi, as Finance Minister of the state, afraid of facing the CBI in NC Hills scam case? If he and any of his Cabinet ministers are not involved, why doesn’t he allow the CBI to conduct a proper inquiry?

But the government has ordered an inquiry. Hasn’t it?
The government has only asked the CBI to investigate four cases. Why doesn’t Gogoi allow the CBI to look into all the cases? It has been asked to investigate only embezzlement of Rs 36 crore while the amount of Central fund siphoned off was Rs 1,000 crore. Plus, the FIR was lodged only against five departments in NC Hills, which is only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the cases are handed over to the anti-corruption department instead of the CBI, which is under theAssam government. This is one of the biggest scams inIndia.

During the LoC scam, the Congress worked hard to show the involvement of the then AGP government. CBI investigator VN Verma had unearthed evidence to show the involvement of former chief minister Hiteswar Saikia in the LoC scam. But when he asked for permission to raid Saikia’s residence, he was removed from the case.

So, you are sure there will be no pressure on the cbi?
I have requested the Centre not to put any political pressure on the CBI and let it do its job. [Mahanta met Home Minister P Chidambaram in this context]. To ensure free and fair CBI inquiry into the NC Hills scam, Gogoi has to get rid of his seven tainted ministers. He doesn’t have the courage to face the truth; even the probe into the LoC scam shows involvement of Congress leaders. I was not involved in the scam. It was during the Congress government that the scam surfaced.

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