Even as Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj party (BSP) supremo Mayawati — sworn enemies till not long ago — are making all efforts to stitch up a united force in Uttar Pradesh against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the 2019 general elections, the law seems to be catching up with both of them.
While the BSP supremo is on sticky ground with a recent directive of the Allahabad High Court not to spare anyone involved in a Rs 1,400 crore scam in memorials constructed under her watch, even as it sought a progress report from the Uttar Pradesh government’s Vigilance Department that is probing the matter, the SP chief is in choppy waters over a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report which indicts his previous government in a Rs 97,000 crore scam.
According to a CAG audit, the mandatory utilisation certificates of works done between 2014 and 2017, involving Rs 97,000 crore, are missing. This amount was spent on 2.5 lakh works and projects, an official privy to the matter told IANS. Most matters pertain to the social welfare, panchayati raj and education departments in which more than Rs 26,000 crore was spent, but there is no certification of the works done.
Sources in the know of the full report say that, in most matters, the CAG suspects large-scale swindling and graft. What is surprising is the fact that while utilisation certificates were not given by many departments, subsequent installments were released. More than 2.55 lakh utilisation certificates are pending, casting serious doubt on governance under the watch of then Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
On the other hand, four-time Chief Minister Mayawati also faces some fresh legal trouble. The Allahabad High Court this week sought a progress report from the government in the multi-crore monument scandal, which involved financial irregularities in the plethora of monuments and memorial parks built when Mayawati was in office from 2007 to 2012.
A bench of Chief Justice D.B. Bhonsle and Justice Yashwant Verma has given the state government one week to present before it the progress report in the matter in which the Lokayukta had inferred large-scale financial irregularities and corruption. The court gave these directions while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Shashikant Pandey of Mirzapur, who has cited Lokayukta N.K. Mehrotra’s 88-page report on the matter.
This could trigger big-ticket trouble for the BSP supremo as there are a lot of financial irregularities under the scanner in the construction of Ambdekar Smarak Parivartan Sthal, Manyavar Kanshiram Smarak Sthal, Eco Park, Gautambuddha Upwan, Ramabai Ambedkar grounds and Smirit Upwan in the state capital Lucknow and the Ambedkar park built in Noida, adjoining New Delhi.
Other than the evidence submitted to the Lokayukta what could trouble Mayawati in this particular matter is that two others accused — her confidantes and former Uttar Pradesh ministers Babu Singh Kushwaha and Naseemuddin Siddiqui — are now ranged against her. Siddiqui is in the Congress and Kushwaha has floated her own party. Any word from them about the complicity of “Behen-ji”, as Mayawati is referred to by her supporters, in the matter could immensely impact the political future of the 62-year-old.
A dozen legislators, more than 100 engineers and government employees, officers of the Noida Authority, Rajkiya Nirman Nigam and the Public Works Department (PWD) were made accused in the scam. Mayawati had taken personal interest in construction of these monuments, named after Dalit icons and Rs 4,500 crore was earmarked for the projects in the state budget. After the report of the Lokayukta was submitted, the then SP government led by Akhilesh Yadav had lodged an FIR in the matter in 2014.
It was alleged that the pink stone used in these monuments was supplied from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh though in the books it was shown as having been purchased from Rajasthan and cartage charges were falsely billed. Crores of rupees allegedly went into the pockets of politicians and engineers in this. The Lokayukta, in his report, had also pointed out that while the labour and machines used for cutting stones were all from Lucknow, the payments made were 10 times what they should have been.
The state Vigilance Department is investigatng the matter. Soon after Akhilesh Yadav stormed to power, he had vowed to bring Mayawati to book but after some time the matter went into cold storage. Today, the two bitter rivals are talking of an electoral alliance in 2019. The BJP government too in the past one-and-a-half years has done precious little in the matter.
The BJP, rattled by the coming together of the two political rivals, which led to successive defeats in parliamentary and assembly by polls, will be more than willing to play this up, say political observers. First, because the processes have been started or raised by constitutional authorities — CAG, Lokayukta and the Judiciary — and hence it cannot be accused of political vendetta; and, secondly, because this will bring to the fore once again the “unholy nexus of the Bua-Bhatija to save their skins and sins”, a BJP functionary chuckled.
What and how much of an impact these issues will have on the 2019 elections is a matter of conjecture, but certainly the two issues have the potential to mar the initial attempts by the SP-BSP to emerge as alternative to the ruling BJP.