Rajasthan allots land for BJP offices, Congress says rules flouted
The Vasundhara Raje government’s move to allot land in 25 of the state’s 33 districts to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for setting up party offices has spiralled into a controversy with the opposition Congress party claiming the allotments are being made at concessional rates, facilitating a “land-grab”, even as the BJP and the state government insist the allotments are above board, and paid for.
The BJP’s desire to have an office in each of the state’s 33 districts comes from national party president Amit Shah’s declaration that the party would have an office in each of India’s 640 districts by December 2018, well before the parliamentary elections that are likely to happen in the middle of 2019. Each district office will link to the BJP’s swank new HQ in Delhi through video conference.
The BJP says there has been no violation of rules and regulations in the acquisitions in Rajasthan.
“There has been no political pressure. The party has acquired land legally by paying the right price and there has been no loss to the state exchequer,” said the party’s media head in the state, Anand Sharma.
State Congress president, Sachin Pilot, said the BJP has gone about the land allotment in a clandestine manner and in violation of regulations. “They are grabbing prime land at concessional rates. They have changed land use at several places. This is misuse of office.” “If the Congress comes to power, we will cancel all the allotments,” he added.
Last week, the Rajasthan High Court ordered status quo on allotment after it received a petition challenging land allotment for the BJP office in Sirohi district.
Rajasthan’s urban development and housing minister, Shrichand Kriplani, said land has been allotted as per norms and there is no illegality. “The land was given at the reserve price + 15%. The land allotment has been made in public interest. Land has been allotted after proper examination.”
The party has been asked to submit all necessary documents, said Kriplani. These include the notification of party registration by the Election Commission of India, a copy of the party by-laws, an affidavit stating that previously no land has been allotted to the party, and a copy of the proposal for land allotment.
Asked if any other political party had been allotted land, Kriplani said no other party had applied. “We will give land to any party that approaches us,” he said. Pilot said the Congress isn’t aware of this. “How would we know about land allotment when the government did not publish any advertisement or write to party leaders?” He said the Congress has applied for land in a couple of districts but claimed its applications were not being considered.
In two of the 25 districts , Sawai Madhopur and Bikaner, land conversion is underway before the allotment to the BJP is done.
In the remaining eight districts, the allotment is being processed in two ( Baran and Ajmer), the party has acquired private land in two (Jalore and Sikar), it has not applied for land in three (Jodhpur, Alwar and Pratpagarh), and it hasn’t been able to find a plot it likes in Jaipur.
The party is scouting for 6000 sqm land for the party office in Jaipur. Sharma said the party wants land near the present office in the centrally located C-Scheme area. The party did not find the options given by the Jaipur Development Authority suitable as they are far away from the city centre, he said. Currently, BJP offices are either in government buildings or have been taken on rent, he said.