Bharatiya Janta Party, claiming to be one of the most non-corrupt political parties is finding itself in a fresh set of problems and allegations. Chhattisgarh Minister Brijmohan Agrawal's wife Sarita Agrawal has allegedly acquired 4.12 hectares of the forest land and is constructing a resort on it.
The allegations have embarrassed the state government as well as the ruling BJP, which often targeted its opponents over corruption charges and promised a clean administration. Chhattisgarh is due for assembly elections next year, with current Cheif Minister Raman Singh eyeing a fourth consecutive term in the mineral-rich state. (hindustantimes.com)
The state Congress not leaving it's chance to politicise the whole matter, has demanded an inquiry and resignation of Agarwal, who has been Raipur South MLA since 1990.
Agarwal said that he is ready for any probe after chief minister Raman Singh sought a report into the charges, raising questions of propriety and conflict of interest. (hindustantimes.com)
Investigation continues to follow
According to reports in the Indian Express, Sarita bought the land near Sirpur in the Mahasamund district of Chhattisgarh in September 2009 and is building a resort named 'Shyam Vatika' on it along with her son. Several Buddhist sites have been excavated at Sirpur which was identified as a potential tourist destination by Agrawal's ministry.
The land was donated by a farmer Vishnu Ram Sahu to Madhya Pradesh's water resources department in the year 1994 for public welfare. Later, it was transferred to the forest department and after nine years Rs 22.90 lakh was spent on the afforestation of the land. (hindustantimes.com)
The September 2009 purchase has been red-flagged by several officials of the Raman Singh government in June this year, but Agrawal's Ministry put down in writing that "it's not possible to take any action in the matter," an investigation by The Indian Express revealed. (indianexpress.com)
The plot first came under the Government's scanner in March 2015 when one Lalit Chandranahu of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangh of Mahasamund district wrote to Mahasamund Collector Umesh Kumar Agrawal and the then Raipur Commissioner Ashok Agarwal alleging that while the plot was transferred to the government, revenue records did not show this.
In August 2016, Chandranahu sent a second complaint that the land had been bought by Sarita Agrawal. Based on this complaint, the Collector and the Commissioner, now Brijesh Mishra, asked the Forest and Water Departments to provide records of the plot's ownership. Barely four months later, another complaint dated December 2, 2016, was sent to the Prime Minister's Office by a whistleblower that mentions the acquisition of this forest land. (indianexpress.com)
The letter was then forwarded by the PMO to Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary Vivek Dhand on December 26 asking for the petitioner's identity to be kept confidential. Dhand forwarded the letter to the Mahasamund Collector asking for an enquiry to which he responded to the Chief Secretary, noting that land had been given to the Forest Department but since there was "laxity" in changing the name in the revenue records, it remained in the name of the original owner Vishnu Ram who sold it to Sarita Agrawal. (indianexpress.com)
Forest authorities have said that a probe has been ordered for this case and that they will come up with the results really soon.
Currently, Brijmohan Agrawal is the Minister for Agriculture, Water Resources and Religious Trusts and Endowments. He was the Minister of School Education, Public Works Department, Parliamentary Affairs, Tourism, and Culture, when his wife brought the land. Denying all the allegations against him and his family, Agrawal has said that the allegations against him are the part of a political conspiracy.
The minister added that he is ready for the enquiry and will return the land if found guilty.