The Congress today sought to embarrass NDA vice presidential candidate M Venkaiah Naidu by raising the issue of alleged irregularities in land deals involving him and his family members and demanded answers since he always spoke of transparency and probity. Accusing Naidu of land grab in Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore district that was reserved for the poor, destitute and landless, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said Naidu was “forced” to return this land after public protests and political pressure.
Responding to Ramesh’s allegations, Naidu, until recently Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Urban Development, said all these things have been answered and mentioned earlier. “Some people went to court, and the court has also dismissed it. I feel really sorry that they could stoop down to this level in this election also,” he told reporters. Union Minister and senior BJP leader Ananth Kumar said whatever allegations Ramesh has tried to level are “baseless and unsubstantiated.”
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Ramesh did not give any proof to back up his allegations beyond giving the sequence of events allegedly involving Naidu and his family members. At a news conference here, Ramesh also alleged that on June 20, 2017, the Telangana government issued a “secret order” exempting the “Swarna Bharat Trust” of Naidu’s daughter from paying development charges of more than Rs 2 crore to the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority. The Congress leader alleged further that in July 2014, the Telangana government placed an order of Rs 271 crore without inviting tenders for purchase of vehicles for the police from two car dealers – Harsha Toyota owned by Naidu’s son and Himanshu Motors owned by Telangana chief minister’s son.
“Is it not a fact that such an order was placed in contravention of all rules and without even floating a tender?” he asked. Ramesh also said that the Supreme Court on April 6, 2011 quashed the allotment of 20 acres of land to “Kushabhau Thakre Memorial Trust” of which Naidu was chairman. He said the Supreme Court also passed strictures against the Madhya Pradesh government in alloting this land in Bhopal on September 25, 2004. “I think it is incumbent upon Venkaiah Naidu, it is incumbent upon the BJP to provide satisfactory answers, the nation wants to know,” he said.
He said Naidu is a senior, experienced and articulate leader and a candidate for the post of vice president for BJP and he should explain to the country and answer the questions raised by the Congress party. “Naidu has been a great champion of transparency, accountability, integrity and probity in public life, apart from being a master player with words and a poet of sorts. In the same spirit we are asking these questions,” he said. “Those holding the highest public offices must fully disclose their ‘interests’ as also ‘special treatment’ in the shape of state largesse for themselves and for their kith and kin,” he said in his written statement. Asked if he was alleging corruption by Naidu, Ramesh did not answer and instead demanded answers from Naidu and the BJP.