Four days after he put Nitin Gadkari on notice as next in his firing line, activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday alleged the BJP president got huge favours in land allotment from the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra in return for "maintaining silence" on various scams.
Gadkari and the BJP issued immediate statements terming the charges "baseless and laughable".
Implicating former deputy CM Ajit Pawar of the NCP, who recently quit over graft allegations, Kejriwal said, "Ajit Pawar, former irrigation minister, signed the order to transfer around 100 acres of land, which actually belonged to the poor farmers of Vidarbha, to illegally benefit Gadkari."
He said investigations by Mumbai-based India Against Corruption (IAC) volunteers Anjali Damania and Preeti Menon showed the state government bent rules to allow a company and an NGO run by Gadkari to acquire land.
"The allegations are absurd. Land has been given on lease to a charitable trust that functions like a cooperative. It is not owned by me," Gadkari said.
The BJP said the 100 acres was wasteland now being used to plant sugarcane saplings. Arun Jaitley said there was nothing wrong in leasing out wasteland for alternative public purpose after a dam had come up and farmers whose plots were originally acquired for the dam had been compensated.
Kejriwal also alleged Gadkari wrote to the Centre seeking Rs. 400 crore in payment due to contractors involved in the dam construction as he wanted the water diverted to his factories.
"It is completely wrong to say dam water was diverted. It was not even 1%, official records show," said the BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The IAC added that Gadkari's companies were polluting Vidarbha and the state was ignoring the complaints of local people.
"It is a clear case of quid pro quo," IAC's Prashant Bhushan said.
Kejriwal's previous 'exposes' targeted law minister Salman Khurshid and Robert Vadra. Jaitley called the activist's press conference a failed attempt to show an "ethical equivalence" between the Congress and BJP.
However, he said this did not mean the charges against Vadra were also wrong.