SRINAGAR: Over a dozen politicians in Jammu and Kashmir, including former ministers and MLAs, owe power dues to the tune of lakhs to the Power Development Department (PDD).
The former ministers and legislators were provided official accommodations with 24-hour power supply after the PDP-BJP coalition government came to power on March 1, 2015. Though the state is now under President’s rule, the bills of these politicians have not yet been cleared.
According to PDD, former deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader Kavinder Gupta owes over `14 lakh as electricity charges to the department. Gupta was initially Speaker of the J&K Assembly. Later, he was appointed deputy CM and remained in the post till the government collapsed on June 19 last year following pullout by the BJP.
“Former BJP minister Sukhnandan Choudhary owes over `19 lakh to the PDD. PDP leader and former minister Aasiya Naqash owes more than `13 lakh as electricity bill arrears,” reveals the official data.
Shia leader and ex-minister Imran Reza Ansari owes over `10 lakh to the PDD. Senior PDP leader Sartaj Madni, who is also the maternal uncle of former CM Mehbooba Mufti, owes `3,78,470. Former Congress MLC Abdul Gani Vakil, who has floated own party, has an outstanding of `4,26,955 while National Conference leader Nazir Ahmad Gurezi owes `50,620 to the PDD.
The department recently published a list of defaulters in local newspapers and served notices to them. The defaulters were asked to either clear the dues within two weeks or their electricity connections would be disconnected without further notice.
Kavinder Gupta, however, said the power bill was of his official residence and had to be cleared by the government. “They are fools. They should have known that it was not my personal residence. As a minister or Speaker of the Assembly, the government has to pay the bills,” he said.
Gupta said the matter had to settled between two departments. “It is between the PDD and the Estates department, which provides accommodations to MLAs and ministers.”
Asked how the bills of politicians had been pending for the last few years, PDD chief engineer PDD Qazi Hashmat said, “We send the bills every month and we get hyper active in January to March every year to get the outstanding bills cleared. They (politicians) can’t contest elections unless they get NOCs from us. They are bound to pay it,” he added.