JAIPUR: Former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje may have been sidelined by BJP from active politics in Rajasthan but controversies refuse to leave her side. An old case of eight missing Iranian carpets, costing crores, has returned to haunt her. After the Congress formed the Government in the state last December, the case of the missing antique carpets which were stolen in Raje's first tenure as CM has been raked up again.
The issue of the stolen carpets was raised by independent MLA Sanyam Lodha in the state Assembly. However, state Tourism Minister Vishwendra Singh assured the house that the precious carpets which disappeared from Jaipur's government-run heritage hotel, Khasa Kothi, will be brought back. "The government will now hold a detailed investigation on this whole case and we will do our best to ensure that those expensive antique carpets are brought back," he said. However, the BJP termed it a baseless row and claims that the court has already given a clean chit on this case.
During Raje’s first stint (2003-2008) as CM, these antique carpets had gone missing from the Khasa Kothi Hotel, run by the state tourism development corporation. On behalf of the Rajasthan State Hotels Corporation Limited, the Public Works Department, had made six carpets available to the Office of the Chief Minister on September 26, 2005 and 2 on April 15, 2006.
The police complaint at that time and the petition filed in the court reveals that the state government had ordered transfer of the carpets to the Chief Minister’s office but they never reached their destination. It was alleged that the carpets were to be received from Rajasthan State Hotel Corporation, Khasa Kothi, for a period of two years on rent.
A consent was also given by the general manager of the corporation. As per the complaint, the carpets were thereafter obtained by Bhargava, who handed them over to Dhirendra Kamthan, who was OSD to Raje. However, after completion of two years, neither was the rent paid nor were the carpets returned.
When the Congress formed the government in 2008, an FIR was filed in this regard in 2009 and the-then chief minister, Ashok Gehlot, had said on several occasions that everything was done at Raje’s behest who had full knowledge of the missing carpets.
The Rajasthan Police initiated a probe into the theft of the eight Iranian carpets following a complaint from the Public Works Department, which named Kamthan as accused.The police complaint stated that the former OSD and another PWD executive engineer picked up the carpets from the hotel and were to deliver it to the office of the chief minister, but these were not found.
In 2009, the HC had stayed the arrests of Kamthan and Bhargava. It was then alleged that the Congress government was making the allegations due to a political vendetta.The Mathur Commission set up by the Ashok Gehlot government too was asked to probe the missing carpets case, but there were no new findings.
The petitioner, Ram Singh Kaswa, filed a complaint before Special Judge, Prevention of Corruption Act in November 2013. Kaswa then maintained that even four years after the filing of the FIR, the investigating agency failed to probe the matter properly.
According to Kaswa's advocate Chiranji Lal Sainee, both were not in good health and thus were not able to go to court. This is the reason why court dismissed the case. The High Court and the Supreme Court also did not reverse the decision.
The cost of these antique carpets of Royal times is estimated at crores of rupees by today's market price. Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachriyawas said that the Tourism Minister has announced the investigation but BJP has never responded on this issue . BJP has responded to Congress's claims strongly.
"The case of the missing carpets was in court and and it gave a clean chit on the issue. There is no meaning to this and this is just a propaganda to defame the previous BJP government. The Congress Ministers should rest their case," BJP spokesperson Mukesh Pareek said.