CWG CORRUPTION WATCH: Tent king raid dims BJP blitz – Games knock on Mittal door as Gadkari roars – Cong in a damage control mode of ‘offensive defence’ to sweep its legendary corruption and apathy under the carpet, as usual ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ARCHIS MOHAN AND RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
New Delhi, Oct. 19: The Commonwealth Games probe today took income tax officials to the premises of Sudhanshu Mittal, Delhi’s “tentwallah” titan the BJP has been trying to distance itself from, gifting the Congress a weapon to counter Nitin Gadkari’s attack on the Prime Minister’s Office.
The income tax department is investigating alleged tax evasion in contracts the Games organising committee awarded to a company in which Mittal, a BJP member who has fallen from grace since Gadkari took over as party president, is a director.
Run by Mittal’s nephew Vinay, the company, Deepali Designs, had bagged Games contracts worth Rs 200 crore. Sources in the income tax department said Mittal took over as a director of the company in February, shortly before Deepali Designs secured the contracts. Mittal did not respond to The Telegraph’s queries.
Apart from the home and office of Mittal, the premises of three other contractors were raided today. The four companies had won contracts worth Rs 650 crore to supply overlays like toilet rolls, treadmills and marquees for the Games Village.
The tax sleuths also visited real estate firm Ireo in Gurgaon. Officials said Mittal was a stakeholder in the company and they were investigating whether the company laundered funds from Deepali Designs through tax havens.
“Some officials from the income tax department have approached Ireo for certain information and clarifications, which are being duly responded to. Ireo doesn’t have any contract with the Commonwealth Games 2010. Ireo remains committed to fully co-operating with the authorities, like always,” a statement from the real estate firm said.
The three other consortiums have been identified as GL Litmus and Meroform, Comfort Net and Nussli India and ESG Arena and D-Art Furniture. The three individually or jointly bagged Games contracts worth Rs 400 crore.
The raid on Mittal robbed Gadkari’s news conference of its punch today. Although the BJP has not rehabilitated Mittal, the Congress took pleasure in suggesting that “probably he (Gadkari) feels that the investigation might reach up to him also”.
Mittal’s sharp rise under the patronage of Pramod Mahajan during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule was resented by many in the party, who were delighted at his fall after Mahajan’s murder.
Gadkari’s predecessor Rajnath Singh had tried hard to rehabilitate him and appointed him convener of Northeast affairs, much to the chagrin of leaders like Arun Jaitley. Although Jaitley and Mittal went to the same school and college — Delhi’s St Xavier’s and Shri Ram College of Commerce — they have no love lost for each other.
Mittal’s resurrection under Rajnath was brief. He tried hard to ingratiate himself with Gadkari by inviting him as the chief guest at an event in March, hoping the BJP would get the “right message”. Former RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya was also present. But nobody took him seriously.
Asked if he was worried about the raids, Gadkari said: “We are not concerned with that. Whoever’s involved should be punished. I do not know anything about Mittal.”
But at the end of the hour-long session, the BJP president couldn’t make up his mind what kind of a probe he wanted into the Commonwealth Games irregularities: a government probe the cabinet secretary would head or one by a joint parliamentary committee.
Gadkari asked: “Were you (the PM), your senior colleagues and the group of ministers not directly monitoring the CWG work?”
However, apart from regurgitating media reports, he couldn’t substantiate any allegation he made.
Gadkari had said yesterday that he would lob a bomb at the PMO by showing proof of its role in the Games corruption. Today, a party functionary said: “Mamla ulta pad gaya (the matter boomeranged on us).”
Congress notices ‘spoilt child’ – but guess who’s hand is caught in the cookie jar ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SANJAY K. JHA
New Delhi, Oct. 19: The Congress, which usually avoids reacting to Nitin Gadkari’s barbs, today described the BJP president as a “spoilt child” who would do anything to attract attention.
“The BJP president has crossed all limits of irresponsibility,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said, responding to Gadkari’s attempt to drag the PMO into the Commonwealth Games muck.
Barely a few days ago, Tiwari had refused to react to Gadkari’s statement on Bihar, arguing that the Congress would not like to honour him by taking note of his views.
But the attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose integrity has never been questioned, has enraged the party that zealously guards the image of its top leadership.
The BJP president’s “demeanour is like that of a spoilt child” who will do anything to attract attention, Tiwari said, adding that this time he had “excelled himself” and “crossed all limits”. He described Gadkari’s news conference as a “diversionary ploy by a scared president of a party whose members are now being caught”, in a reference to the income tax raids on BJP activist Sudhanshu Mittal.
If Gadkari had any proof of the allegations he was making, he should have submitted it to the inquiry committee or investigating agencies, the Congress spokesperson said.
Other Congress leaders said the BJP should wait for the inquiries to be over and appreciate that the Prime Minister did not wait for even 24 hours after the Games had closed to order a comprehensive probe into the alleged irregularities.
“The BJP’s track record on the issue of corruption is pathetic. We have seen what they did in the Tehelka scandal,” Tiwari said.
The war of words over the Games will continue and probably intensify when Parliament reopens for the winter session on November 9, but the BJP president has finally managed to get the Congress’s attention. So far, the party’s spokespersons have maintained that Gadkari does not have the political stature to deserve a formal response from the Congress.
While any charges levelled by Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj or L.K. Advani are rebutted promptly, the Congress has so far chosen to ignore what Gadkari says.
When the party’s response was sought on a remark he made about Rahul Gandhi’s inexperience some time ago, Tiwari had said: “Gadkari has not acquired that level of political gravitas to compel us to respond. He is just an extension board of the RSS in Delhi that BJP leaders connect to draw power from.”
Asked if Tiwari had made a casual remark, a media department member had said: “We discussed the matter and came to the conclusion not to take note of what he says. We take a call on who should be given how much weight from the party podium. Outside, if somebody responds to him, for instance on a television show, it is fine. But from the official podium, we have decided to ignore him.”
State seeks Jan-Feb Games – Vigilance to summon NGOC office-bearers for questioning – just a ‘slap on the wrist ruse’ and India knows no better ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SUMAN K. SHRIVASTAVA & RUDRA BISWAS
Ranchi, Oct. 19: As the state vigilance bureau prepares to summon National Games Organising Committee (NGOC) working chairman R.K. Anand and other office-bearers for questioning, the state government and NGOC are busy petitioning Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to set a fresh schedule for holding the jinxed 34th National Games in January or February 2011.
“Steps are being taken to summon all three NGOC office-bearers and the then director of sports for interrogation in connection with the FIR filed against them by the vigilance bureau earlier this month. We intend to speed up investigations,” IG (vigilance) M.V. Rao told The Telegraph.
On October 6, the bureau had lodged FIRs against Anand, NGOC organising secretary S.M. Hashmi, treasurer Madhukant Pathak and P.C. Mishra, the then director of sports, and others, for corruption, misuse of official position and embezzlement of public funds in purchase of equipment and construction of infrastructure for the proposed Games in Ranchi. They were charged under Indian Penal Code Sections 120(B),109, 420, 406, 409, 467, 468, 471 and under Section 13(2) and 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Speaking over phone from Delhi, Anand today told The Telegraph that a letter had been written to IOA president Suresh Kalmadi yesterday for allotting fresh dates for the Games. The letter was jointly signed by chief minister and NGOC chairman Arjun Munda and Anand.
Earlier, Munda had urged the IOA to postpone the Games slated between December 9 and 22 to January-February for the panchayat elections. The 34th National Games, originally scheduled for November 2007, has already been postponed six times.
Anand said the government should hold the panchayat elections but simultaneously complete preparations for the Games. He added that he had already submitted a list of requirements for holding the Games to the sports secretary.
When asked to comment on the FIR, Anand, a lawyer, said there was nothing mala fide on the part of the state government in lodging an FIR with the vigilance bureau for the alleged financial bungling.
Section 154 of CrPC requires the bureau to lodge an FIR to start investigations into charges levelled against a person. If the bureau finds the evidence substantial, then only it registers the case under Section 182 of the CrPC, he pointed out.
“I have nothing to worry. All purchases were made by the government,” he added.
The FIRs were lodged after the state law department gave the go-ahead to the bureau to probe the charges levelled by the secretary of the State Wrestling Association, Bhola Nath Singh. In his complaint, Singh alleged flouting of financial rules in purchase of sports equipment without floating tenders, purchase of equipment much in excess of actual requirements and at prices many times higher than actual market prices, purchase of electronic score boards from a single supplier at varying rates and granting of mobilisation advances to parties without obtaining bank guarantees.
Anand said 90 per cent of the sports equipment had been procured. “Now, the officials have to work at the ground level to procure the rest 10 percent. We don’t want to get a bad name like the IOA office-bearers who drew a lot of flak for the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
The chief minister, during a review meeting on September 23, had been shocked to learn that the venue for the equestrian event was yet to be decided. Terraflex for volleyball and basketball indoor stadiums were also not ready while construction of approach roads was far from complete. The chief minister had asked the sports department to immediately approach the Vigilance Bureau and request it to complete the probe into the allegations clouding the National Games.
Probe nears Dikshit govt doorstep, Matriarch cuts lonely figure – now quickly abandoned after curried favors procured ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ARCHIS MOHAN
New Delhi, Oct. 19: Sheila Dikshit was campaigning in Bihar today but back in Delhi, which she has ruled for 12 years running, the probe into Games corruption allegations was threatening to engulf her government.
For Delhi’s chief minister, the past week has been a roller coaster. On Thursday, spectators cheered her endlessly at the Games closing ceremony. But three days on, at a Dussehra ceremony, she stood forlorn as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul helped the Prime Minister handle the bow and arrow to shoot down Ravana’s 40ft-tall effigy. The trio kept their distance from her through the ceremony.
Many in Congress circles have forecast this to be the autumn of Delhi’s matriarch. The corruption probe now looks set to reach her government’s doorstep as also the Jaipal Reddy-headed urban development ministry.
Dikshit’s party and cabinet colleagues voiced surprise at her unprovoked outburst at Games organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi. Late last week, she had said “the real corruption seems to be with regard to the money given as loans (to the organising committee)”.
A Delhi Congress leader said: “It was uncharacteristic of her. She is generally calm, rarely gets into verbal duels. I read it as a sign she is… feeling the heat.”
The comptroller and auditor general (CAG) and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) are already asking questions. About Rs 16,560 crore were allotted to the Delhi government to organise the Games.
According to a sports ministry report released last month, Rs 2,800 crore was to be spent on a 1500MW power project due to have become operational by mid-2010. The project is way behind schedule.
Second, the Delhi government received Rs 900 crore for construction of bus depots. But only one has come up, which has to be demolished as it has been built on Yamuna’s floodplain.
Third, the government spent Rs 1,800 crore to augment its bus fleet. The CAG is probing complaints that about twice the amount was paid for each of these buses that should have cost Rs 40 lakh.
Fourth, the government received Rs 670 crore to construct stadiums and training venues. The training venues at Shivaji Stadium and Ludlow Castle are not ready. The budget for widening and strengthening roads was Rs 650 crore but several caved in.
Fifth, the government was given Rs 3,700 crore to build flyovers and bridges. Sources said the CAG was looking into complaints of cost escalation, poor quality of work and the collapse of the overbridge outside Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
No surprise then that Kalmadi asked Dikshit to mind her government instead of taking potshots at the organising committee in an interview to a TV channel today.
Kalmadi said his silence should not be construed as a sign of weakness. “…Now that the Games are over, I shall speak out and I did reply to Mrs Dikshit. I said set your own house in order before you show your finger at others,” he said.
Kalmadi said Dikshit “had a budget of Rs 16,000 crore and that was all the construction part of it. I had nothing to do with construction. My budget is just Rs 1,600 crore to organise the Games, to deliver the Games, that’s about it. So, she has to answer for a lot of things. She should not put the blame on somebody else.”
Games gravy: Rs 8000 crore – also what about the astronomical agricultural price rises and much, much more – India to keep Congress still at the fore ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
New Delhi, Oct. 19: The Central Vigilance Commission has received complaints that put the cumulative value of alleged corruption in projects related to the Commonwealth Games between Rs 5,000 crore and Rs 8,000 crore.
Sources said the complaints included payment to non-existent parties, wilful delay in execution of contracts, inflated prices and bungling in purchase of equipment through tendering.
“The total misappropriation amount may touch a figure of Rs 5,000-8,000 crore. The commission is still awaiting reports from various departments and cannot give the exact amount involved in the bunglings,” PTI quoted a senior CVC official as saying.
In reply to an RTI application from PTI, the anti-corruption watchdog has given details of projects executed by different government agencies where discrepancies have been detected.
Complaints regarding alleged embezzlement of Rs 1.5 crore in purchase of Hova courts for the badminton stadium, malpractices in the tender for kitchen equipment installation and misappropriation in video board tenders for remodelling and upgradation of Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium were received by the CVC. In all cases, reports are awaited from the sports ministry, it said.
The CVC is probing at least 22 more Games-related construction and procurement projects executed by different government agencies.
Several investigative arms of the government are now involved in the Games probe.
The Enforcement Directorate has registered a case under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema) to investigate allegations that the Suresh Kalmadi-headed Games organising committee had indulged in irregularities while awarding contracts for the Queen’s baton relay.
A CBI team visited the organising committee headquarters to collect documents.
The income tax department is investigating the award of broadcast rights by Prasar Bharati to a UK-based company and its Indian arm following charges of tax evasion.
Glare on Emaar
The Delhi Development Authority has submitted to urban development minister S. Jaipal Reddy a report on problems in the construction of the Games Village. Emaar-MGF Construction had built the Village.
In the report, the DDA has cited various “irregularities” and “deficiencies” in the construction of 38 towers of the Village. It also accused the builder of exceeding the permissible limits of construction, sources said. If the allegations are proved, the company could face action.
On October 7, Reddy had written to the DDA that “it has been widely reported that Emaar-MGF Construction has not executed the project of the development of the Games Village diligently and efficiently. There are serious complaints against the project developer, including complaints of construction against the provisions of the sanctioned plan, as well as not adhering to the obligations as per the project development agreement. There have also been reports of delay as well as deficiency in the execution of the project, which have not only adversely affected the image of DDA but also the Commonwealth Games as a whole.”
In a statement, Emaar said it had complied with all laws and regulations, describing the Games Village as a world-class structure developed in record time.