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Congress, BJP lock horns over graft allegations

The war of words came on a day that Rahul Gandhi, during an informal interaction with students in Chennai, said, “I will be the first person to say it...Investigate Robert Vadra but also investigate PM Narendra Modi.”

india Updated: Mar 14, 2019 00:47 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress,BJP,graft allegations
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress exchanged barbs on Wednesday over a report that sought to link Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, with controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari in a matter related to the purchase of land in Haryana.(HT File Photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress exchanged barbs on Wednesday over a report that sought to link Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, with controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari in a matter related to the purchase of land in Haryana.

Union minister Smriti Irani said at a press conference that Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi purchased land in a deal involving HL Pahwa, who was raided by the Enforcement Directorate, and Mahesh Kumar Nagar, who had a role in a land transaction involving Priyanka Gandhi’s husband, Robert Vadra. Pahwa, she said, was lent money by CC Thampi, who is “friends” with controversial arms dealer Bhandari.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala dismissed the charge, saying the allegation had been made because the BJP was facing imminent defeat in the 2019 election and had no answer to joblessness, agrarian crisis, economic slowdown and other such issues confronting the nation.

The war of words came on a day that Rahul Gandhi, during an informal interaction with students in Chennai, said, “I will be the first person to say it...Investigate Robert Vadra but also investigate PM Narendra Modi.”

The reference was to the Rafale jet fighter deal in which the Congress has alleged wrongdoing by Modi-- a charge that has been repeatedly rejected by the government .

Hitting out at the Congress chief, Irani said Robert Vadra was “merely a mask” in the controversial land deals, and Rahul Gandhi was the “real face”.

She alleged that Rahul Gandhi’s opposition to a defence deal (the purchase of Rafale aircraft) stemmed from his financial and family interests, and that the Congress leader wanted a rival company to bag the contract.

In a spirited defence, Surjewala said Rahul Gandhi purchased 6.456 acres of land in Hassanpur village in Haryana’s Palwal district on March 3, 2008. The land was bought at a total price of ?26,47,000 that was paid by cheque, which is the equivalent of about ?4,10,006 per acre, he said.

On July 26, 2012, Rahul Gandhi gave the 6.4 acres of land to Priyanka Gandhi through a gift deed, registered in the office of the sub-registrar. They also paid stamp duty of ?193,700 on the registered gift deed, Surjewala said. Priyanka Gandhi, on August 12, 2014, gifted the land to Vipassana Sadhna Sansthan, a not-for-profit spiritual organisation.

“The purchase of land was done by Rahul Gandhi out of his own funds paid from his bank account. At no point of time, this purchase of a small piece of land and consequent gift to a spiritual organisation has any connection with any individual, whatsoever,” Surjewala said.

First Published: Mar 14, 2019 00:47 IST