MUMBAI: A query by a city-based RTI activist has revealed that the Maharashtra Government in 2001 had waived off an interest of Rs 3.75 crore to ‘Associated Journals’ with which Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi are associated.
The company – Associated Journals – owned now defunct newspapers National Herald and Quami Awaz.
A Delhi court recently issued summons to the Gandhis in connection with the Congress decision to give interest-free loan to this company. BJP leader Subramaniam Swami had alleged that both Sonia and Rahul together have 76 per cent stake in a company that took over Associated Journals’ debts.
He also alleged that the the mother-son duo misused party funds to acquire ownership over the properties of National Herald.
According to documents procured by Anil Galgali under the Right to Information Act, the Maharashtra Government had in 1983 had allotted land to Associated Journals in Bandra to build its press and Nehru memorial library and a research centre for Rs 1.31 crore for a lease of 30 years.
However, the company did not follow the condition that it will begin the construction within two years. The company did not pay the amount in one instalment.
The state government, which had a right to charge interest on the amount, calculated it to Rs 3.75 crore in 2001. However, then Revenue Minister Ashok Chavan waived off the interest.
“Associated Journals not only delayed the construction, but also managed to obtain repeated extensions from the state government to the land lease. The lease expires on December 22. The company started constructions six months ago to save the lease. It is a clear violation of the rules,” Galgali said.
He mentioned that the land, which has market value of Rs 250 crore now, allotted to the company, was earlier reserved for hostel for students from Scheduled Castes. “The government should recover the waived interest and take over the land to construct the hostel,” Galgali said.
Interestingly, then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in 2000 allotted a portion of the same land to a housing society, Sai Prasad, floated by Congress leader Rajiv Chavan.
Many high-profile politicians including Mumbai Congress president Kripashankar Singh and many bureaucrats are members of the society and own residences there.
“The allotment to Sai Prasad was also against the rules. The government should ensure that the premises are not used for commercial purposes. If the company fails to start a library and research centre, I will again raise my voice against it,” Galgali said.