The BJP on Wednesday defended party president Nitin Gadkari against charges levelled by India Against Corruption (IAC) that he had benefitted from land leased out by the NCP-Congress government in 2006, but chose not to sound shrill.
The charges, it said, were aimed at striking a balance between targeting the Congress and BJP. “The charges against me are baseless. They make me laugh,” Gadkari quipped.
“Today’s press conference (by the IAC) is a failed attempt to bring a moral equivalence between Congress and BJP… A mountain (has been made) of what was not even a molehill,” senior BJP leader Jaitley said in a joint press conference with Sushma Swaraj.
“Any crusading organisation must ensure its own credibility. If it loses that through... exaggeration, it harms the cause itself.”
“The land was acquired in 1983-84, and a dam came up in 1997. The IAC’s charge that farmers farming there was wrong as it was wasteland. A cooperative called Purti (with which Gadkari is associated) was given the land for planting sugarcane saplings,” Swaraj said, adding: “They give saplings worth R13 at a subsidised price of Rs. 5 to farmers.”
Responding to charges that the dam water went to Gadkari’s firms, Swaraj said just 0.85 % of the water was used for the purpose. “The land was acquired to build a dam. Some part of it was a wasteland... nothing wrong if it was given for an alternative public purpose,” Jaitley said.
When asked about the IAC’s charges against Robert Vadra, Jaitley said, “Each case will be seen on its own merit.”