Palace battle rages as Cong picks holes in BJP defence of Raje
The battle over Dholpur Palace intensified on Tuesday as the Congress displayed fresh documents to accuse Vasundhara Raje of usurping a public property and the BJP defended the Rajasthan chief minister, saying it’s a private, inherited estate of her son.india Updated: Jun 30, 2015 20:08 IST
The battle over Dholpur Palace intensified on Tuesday as the Congress displayed fresh documents to accuse Vasundhara Raje of usurping a public property and the BJP defended the Rajasthan chief minister, saying it’s a private, inherited estate of her son.
The BJP’s Rajasthan unit president, Ashok Parnami, waved some papers that he refused to share with the media after senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh produced documents to allege that a state-owned palace was turned into a luxury hotel by Raje’s family with money from former IPL chief Lalit Modi.
“There has been a criminal nexus between Lalit Modi and the Vasundhara Raje family,” former Union minister Ramesh said in Delhi, before demanding an independent probe and removal of the chief minister.
The Congress’s documents showed Raje's son Dushyant Singh and his father, Hemant Singh, allegedly reached a compromise only on movable properties of Dholpur Palace, although the property remained public. The documents included one from 1949 which said the palace was owned by the Rajasthan government.
The BJP countered the accusation, saying Raje’s son was the rightful owner of the sprawling red sandstone palace, inherited from his father. “What Hemant Singh told the court in 1980 was probably driven by personal disputes in the family,” Parnami said.
Dushyant took “physical possession” of the palace, 42km from Agra, following the compromise between him and his father, the erstwhile ruler of Dholpur and Raje’s estranged husband, the BJP leader said.
But Parnami refused to share the papers with the media. “What is the authenticity of the documents I am showing? Seek the documents through RTI,” he said.
The palace has triggered a political battle after the Congress alleged on Monday that documents between 1954 and 2010 showed the property was owned by the Rajasthan government but Raje and Lalit Modi’s company, Niyant Heritage Hotels, turned it into a high-end heritage hotel.
The fresh accusations added to the woes of the BJP which has been fighting hard to contain the damage following reports that Raje and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj helped Lalit Modi with British immigration and travel papers even when he is under scrutiny for tax frauds and money laundering.
Congress leader Ramesh said the BJP should stop making “lame duck” arguments such as the National Highways Authority of India paying nearly Rs 2 crore as compensation to Dushyant for palace land acquired for a new road.
“This doesn’t establish his ownership of the palace because it was a nexus between him and the land acquisition officer. He got money as compensation and that is a scam which needs to be investigated.”
The Rajasthan BJP chief rebutted the allegation, saying the money was paid when the UPA was in power and a complaint to the CBI was also made. “Why didn’t the Congress-led UPA investigate the matter then?” Parnami questioned.
(With inputs from agencies)