The relationship between Bharatiya Janata Party’s national president Nitin Gadkari and leading roads contractor Dattaray Mhaiskar, founder of Ideal Road Builders (IRB) Pvt Ltd. that had got public works contracts during Gadkari's stint as a minister in the Maharashtra government from 1995 to 1999, goes deeper than the BJP chief may care to admit.
The business dealings among the two are not limited to Mhaiskar bailing out Gadkari’s Purti Power and Sugar Limited through a onetime loan of Rs. 164 crore in 2010, or investing in his Purti Group when it was formed in 2001.
According to information available, Gadkari’s son Nikhil was a director on the board of a company named Ideal Energy Projects Limited (IEPL) from 2009 to 2011, and held around 10,000 of its shares in that period.
Mhaiskar is IEPL’s executive director, while his son Jayant is its managing director and holds the largest stake in it — around 85 lakh shares.
IEPL is setting up a 540 megawatt coal-based power plant in Bela near Nagpur, and is situated adjacent to Purti Group premises.
The 55-acre land for the company was also sold by Purti Group in 2006 for a profit. This was part of the 180 acres bought by the group from farmers for co- operative programmes.
Besides the Mhaiskar family, the only other stake holders in the company till 2011, besides Nikhil, were Neeraj Hardikar (5,000 shares) and Ganesh Gadre (5,000 shares).
When Nikhil resigned as IEPL’s director in 2011, he transferred his shares, worth Rs. 1 lakh, to Gadre. Incidentally, Gadre is also a director of Purti Power and Sugar Limited. While Nikhil's share in the company was minor, these dealings do raise questions of propriety for the party chief.
The BJP, however, sees no wrong in them. "There is nothing illegal in any of this; neither can a quid pro quo be established in any way. When Mhaiskar got contracts, he got it on merit through competitive bidding. When he invested or gave a loan to Purti, Gadkari was not holding public office," said senior BJP leader and leader of opposition in the legislative council, Vinod Tawde.
Mhaiskar was not available for comment despite phone calls and SMSes sent to him. HT had also sent an email to Jayant Mhaiskar, but he did not respond.