JAIPUR: Hours after Congress alleged a scam of Rs 45,000 crore in the allocation of mines in Rajasthan, ruling BJP today rejected the charge and sought to turn the tables on the Opposition party, saying the process of "first-come-first-serve" basis was started in 2010, during the Ashok Gehlot's tenure.
BJP state president Ashok Parnami said that the process of allotment of mining lease of 19 limestone blocks for cement plants was started in 2010, during the Congress regime led by Ashok Gehlot government, which invited applications for allotment under Mineral Concessions Rules (MCR) 1960. "It was during the Congress regime when this process of block allotment began in 2010. Congress government issued notification of mines allotment and invited applications from 2010 to 2013," he said.
Parnami also said that there was no provision of auction in Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 1957. "After the opinion of law department to allot the mines, because there was no provision of auction/bid in Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 1957, the then government had issued a letter on February 7, 2013 to allot the mines as per the act," Parnami said.
"In compliance of the order, the department initiated the process of hearing the applications from March 2013 to May 2014. In March 2013, there was Congress government and in May 2014, the government was of BJP. So, the process has been constantly going on and BJP government did not start this process," he said. Parnami said that no irregularity was done by the BJP and the process was going on since 2010.
"When the BJP government allotted the mines, no irregularity was done. The process had been going on since 2010. "The allotments which have been made are not final. The government has just issued Letter of Intent (LoI) and the applicant has to complete other formalities with Bureau of Mines and Forest and Environment Ministry before getting the final allotment and this will take a couple of more years' time," the BJP leader claimed.
Congress today 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 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 in Delhi, 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.
Attacking Congress, Parnami alleged that corruption "flourished" under Gehlot's rule and irregularity in mines allotment was committed by the former government.
"37 mines were allotted in Jodhpur Stone Park and nine of them were allotted to then CM Gehlot's relatives who were not eligible for the allotment and the issue was raised by BJP when we were in Opposition," he said. He alleged that the then Congress government had changed the state's mine allotment norms to suit his ineligible relatives.
Targeting the former Congress government, Parnami said that Anti-Corruption Bureau, after probing a complaint, had recommended a case against suspended IAS officer Ashok Singhvi and others for criminal conspiracy with a mining company and misusing official powers under relevant sections of IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act in August 2010 but it was surprisingly converted into a department inquiry by the government.
He said that the allegation against Singhvi was about causing a loss of Rs 600 crore to exchequer for the benefit of his own and the company. "Our government took action against the corruption and those who were involved in corruption were arrested by the
ACB," he said. Parnami also claimed that the ACB's operation against the bribery racket involving suspended IAS officer Singhvi was well in the knowledge of chief minister and home minister and Raje gave her nod for action against any corrupt official involved.
Singhvi, who was the Principal Secretary (Mines) department, is among eight persons who were arrested by the ACB recently in a bribery case involving Rs 2.55 crore. Defending Raje, Parnami said that people gave strong mandate to BJP in 2013 Assembly polls and she will be the chief minister for the entire period of the government. "Congress leaders are unable to digest their humiliating defeat in elections therefore they are leveling baseless allegations against Raje," he said.
While Pilot said, "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. 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.