Charges against yesterday's allies

Print edition : November 01, 1997
VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN

ONE of the first actions of Kalyan Singh after the BSP withdrew support to his Government on October 19 was to convene a press conference ostensibly to explain the "real reasons behind" the BSP's decision. According to him , the BSP's allegations about his anti-Dalit policies were baseless and the real provocation was that he had ordered inquiries into some corruption charges against BSP leaders, including former Chief Minister Mayawati.

Kalyan Singh spoke about three cases: the purchase of floating pumps allegedly disregarding objections from officials in the fire service department, the alleged conversion of 700 acres of industrial land into land for residential purposes in Greater Noida and the leasing out of 6,930 acres of land spread over 23 farms in different parts of the State to private persons. Kalyan Singh alleged that the BSP leadership had derived illegal pecuniary benefits from these deals.

In the first case, an order was allegedly placed for the purchase of 300 floating pumps from a Chennai-based company, reportedly owned by a senior BSP functionary, at rates far exceeding market prices. The Mayawati government allegedly signed a deal with the company to buy floating pumps costing Rs. 2.49 lakhs each while the cost of one pump is Rs.58,000 in almost all parts of the country. Payment for 197 pumps was allegedly made before Kalyan Singh took over as Chief Minister. The last payment (for 40 pumps) was allegedly made two hours before Mayawati resigned as Chief Minister on September 20. Kalyan Singh ordered an inquiry into the deal three days after he assumed office and stopped payment for 103 pumps. The information given by Kalyan Singh suggests that the State has lost Rs.1. 91 lakhs on each pump and that the total loss is around Rs.3.75 crores.

The investigation into the alleged land conversion in Greater Noida has been formally taken over by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) at the request of the Kalyan Singh Government. Among those who were to benefit from the alleged conversion was film producer Gulshan Kumar (who was murdered on August 12). At the time of his death, Gulshan Kumar was producing a film on Mayawati. Out of the 700 acres converted, 200 acres were to be reportedly allotted to Gulshan Kumar's real estate firm, which was planning a "golden city project" in Greater Noida.

According to Kalyan Singh, the State exchequer lost more than Rs.500 crores because of this alleged scam. There is a vast difference between the prices of industrial and residential lands. The average market price of industrial land is Rs.400 a square metre while residential land costs Rs. 2,200 a square metre. The private parties who allegedly benefited from the deal were not made to pay this difference. Kalyan Singh said that there were complaints about payment of bribery and misuse of official powers in this deal. According to the Chief Minister, Usha Chatrath, former chairperson of Greater Noida, was against the conversion of land use. She was transferred on September 10 and the decision on the conversion of land use was taken in a meeting of the Greater Noida Board on September 12. Kalyan Singh said that S.C. Tripathi, Principal Secretary, Public Enterprises, who is also a member of the board, was specifically asked by the new chairperson, Baburam, not to attend the September 12 meeting. According to Kalyan Singh Tripathi was opposed to the land conversion proposal.

Kalyan Singh alleged that the leasing the agricultural land was a hush-hush operation in which only selected people were given the chance to bid. The lease, according to him, has been granted for 30 years for a paltry sum of Rs.1,000 per hectare per year. The lease is renewable for the following 60 years in two instalments of 30 years each. Kalyan Singh said that there were complaints that certain politicians and bureaucrats close to the former regime benefited from the deal. The investigation into this case has also been handed over to the CBI.

AT the political level, the Kalyan Singh group in the BJP plans to use these cases to run a campaign against the BSP. Mayawati has termed Kalyan Singh's moves as an exercise in political vendetta (see interview). She says she has nothing to fear as her hands her clean.

Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh welcomed the probe but said that Kalyan Singh was selective in ordering investigation. "There are corruption charges against BJP Ministers like Lalji Tandon and Kalraj Mishra; why are they being spared?" he asked. According to Kalyan Singh loyalists, the Chief Minister would respond to Amar Singh's query too. By all indications, the response could take the form of ordering an inquiry into the charges against the BJP Ministers as well. It appears that Kalyan Singh will use the corruption issue not only to settle scores with BSP leaders but also to target his detractors in the BJP and gain total control over the party's State unit.

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