Raje signals bad tidings for Vadra’s land deals

  • Rakesh Goswami, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
  • Updated: Dec 13, 2014 01:21 IST

An investigation into the land deals of Robert Vadra in Bikaner has found instances of “wrongdoing”, Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje has said, the strongest indication yet that trouble could be brewing for the son-in-law of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

Vadra, 45, is accused of making windfall gains on purchases of large tracts of land in Rajasthan and Haryana, where the then Congress-led governments allegedly helped him acquire land at below-market prices.

Vadra closed down six of his companies after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the elections in the two states. But he denies any wrongdoing, saying the move to wind down his business had nothing to do with the land deals.

Vadra’s land purchases, Raje said, had been “aided and abetted” by the previous Congress government of Ashok Gehlot. She, however, refused to divulge details so as not to hamper the investigation.

“Records have been taken and an inquiry (is) going on,” the chief minister said in an interview to Hindustan Times ahead of the first anniversary of her government on Saturday.

“There has been wrongdoing. Let’s see where it goes but I’m not in a position to speak about that inquiry.”

In all, various firms owned by Vadra executed 58 land deeds in Bikaner’s Kolayat tehsil between 2009 and 2013. Of these companies, three reaped up to 600 percent in profits within three years of investing in Rajasthan, official records show.

In a free-wheeling hour-long chat, Raje tackled a wide range of issues, including her alleged sore relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah that have sparked rumours that she may be replaced.

Without naming two of her most vociferous detractors, Ghanshyam Tiwadi and Narpat Singh Rajvi, the chief minister spoke of “these two beauties” in her previous cabinet who she said were the only rumour mongers now talking about her replacement. Tiwadi and Rajvi were not considered for the post of ministers this time.

Speaking on her much publicised ‘Sarkar Aapke Dwar’ initiative, a move at more responsive governance that saw her spending time listening to people in the districts, Raje said the only quarter complaining about it were civil servants who were being forced to perform harder.

“You won’t see the results in six month, one year, two years, but by the third year, you will see the results,” she said.

Although hailed by industry for easing labour and land laws to unlock investments, Raje has faced criticism for failing to generate enough jobs, a charge she does not deny because she says a string of election-related restrictions hampered her government’s ability to make policy.

“But next year onwards, we will have 3 lakh jobs a year,” vowed Raje, who has promised to create 15 lakh jobs in five years.

The chief minister got into her elements speaking about her pet project, the Bhamashah financial inclusion scheme which she regards as her biggest achievement so far.

“It would be, I imagine, the first family card; it’s also biometric and you can also swipe it. I have to put the health insurance on to it,” she said.

“I think by the end of this year, we will be able to do that also. This card will then allow lots of other activities – even going as far as PDS at a later time.”

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