Bank account under scanner in NH-74 scam, Congress says BJP using SIT to pressure party

Uttarakhand Congress claimed that it opened the bank account in December 2016 in compliance with a directive from the Election Commission

dehradun Updated: Feb 24, 2018 20:57 IST
Abhinav Madhwal
Abhinav Madhwal
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
NH-74 scam,SIT probe,NH scam
A view of a stretch of NH-74 between Jaspur and Khatima in Udham Singh Nagar. (HT Phto)

The Uttarakhand Congress had in December 2016 opened a separate bank account to manage its expenses in the assembly polls held two months later, former party chief Kishore Upadhyay said Friday. It was done in compliance with an Election Commission of India (EC) directive and had nothing to do with the NH-74 scam, the Congress leader said.

“The EC had directed that a separate account be opened for the elections. We complied with that. Everything is in the open. The money was deposited through cheques and is accounted for. (However) I don’t know the source of the funds as I was busy with the elections,” said Upadhyay.

The former PCC chief’s reaction comes two days after a Special Investigation Team (SIT), probing the alleged Rs 300-crore scam in procurement of land for NH-74 in Udham Singh Nagar, questioned him.

It has been alleged that the compensation meant for farmers whose land was procured was instead used by the party during campaigning for the assembly elections held in 2017.

The SIT has said that Rs 5.54 crore was deposited in the bank account that the Congress had opened on December 29, 2016. Congress general Ssecretary SS Rangad and former chief minister Harish Rawat’s officer on special duty (OSD) Kamal Rawat had the rights to operate the account. Kamal Rawat was made the party’s organization secretary after he resigned from the post of OSD.

The account was operated from January 16, 2017 to February 17, 2017. There were a total of 46 fund transfers into the account and money was also deposited through 11 cheques.

Congress veteran and the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, Indira Hridyesh, and Harish Rawat, who were in Haldwani Friday, said that the party funds were transparent and there were no shady dealing as was being alleged by the ruling BJP.

The irregularities had taken place when Harish Rawat was CM and Upadhayay was at the helm of the state Congress unit.

“I am open to any investigation in the future. The SIT is acting on a pick-and-choose policy. Why isn’t there any inquiry into BJP’s election funds,” asked Upadhyay.

Senior superintendent of police, Udham Singh Nagar, Sadanand Date refused to make any comments saying the SIT was probing into the fund transfer made by farmers.

It was earlier alleged that some farmers, who got exorbitant compensation for their agricultural lands at commercial rates, deposited a part of the money into the Congress’s bank account.

Finance minister Prakash Pant sought to brush aside the allegation that the ruling party was using the SIT to put pressure on the Congress. “Our party collected funds through cheques in a transparent manner,” he said, adding the “law will take its own course (in the SOT probe) and the truth will not remain hidden for long.”

It was then Kumaon Commissioner D Senthil Pandiyan who blew the whistle on the scam. Soon after coming to power in March last year, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat took cognisance of the issue, suspended six state-level officers and recommended a CBI probe.

However, Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari advised against the CBI probe saying it would have an adverse impact on the morale of NHAI officials, prompting Congress to allege that the BJP governments in the state and at the Centre were trying to save some “’big names” involved in the scam.

Later, the state government had formed the SIT to look into the matter.

First Published: Feb 24, 2018 20:57 IST