GUJARAT: CONGRESS’S FLOCK AFLUTTER
Allegations against minister Brijmohan Agrawal give CM Raman Singh the edge
When Chhattisgarh agriculture and water resources minister Brijmohan Agrawal’s name cropped up in a land scam, it was just what chief minister Raman Singh needed to cut him down to size ahead of the assembly polls in 2018. A six-time MLA from Raipur since 1990 and a minister in the Sunderlal Patwa government in undivided MP, Agrawal has always felt he should have been the CM.
Even as allegations surfaced that not only had Agrawal’s wife Sarita and their son Abhishek illegally purchased forest land but also encroached on some 14 hectares of government land in Jhalki village, besides acquiring an additional 27 hectares of patta land, given to farmers and tribals, the minister rushed to explain his case to the BJP leadership in Delhi. Meanwhile, sources say, a report prepared by the state chief secretary on the CM’s orders points to ‘wrongdoing’.
As per the allegations, Sarita and Abhishek purchased 4.12 hectares in Sirpur (Mahasamund district) in 2009 to build a forest resort. While construction was under way, it emerged that the land had been donated to the state water
resources department—incidentally one of Agrawal’s current charges—by its owner, Vishnu Sahu, in 1994. The holding was subsequently transferred to the state forest department, and Rs 22.9 lakh spent on afforestation in 2003, but it was not notified as forest land.
While the chief secretary’s report hasn’t been made public, there are serious questions on how land registered in the name of the forest department was sold to the minister’s family. Local revenue officials aren’t speaking, given the political sensitivities involved, but sources say orders have already been issued to annul the ‘sale’.
Agrawal, meanwhile, maintains that the land was legally purchased from its farmer-owner and was also listed among his assets in his affidavits to the Election Commission. However, not many in the ruling BJP have spoken up for Agrawal. And the Congress, too, has been uncharacteristically quiet, some say, because of the minister’s rapport with Opposition leaders.
Unfortunately for Agrawal, his strength in the state BJP stems from his popularity on the ground, and not his proximity to the central leadership. His only hope, analysts say, would be in the BJP’s reluctance to take action on the allegations he faces. A possible denouement could perhaps be in returning the land to the forest department. Agrawal would suffer financially, but it may bring him a measure of political redemption.
NOT MANY IN THE RULING BJP HAVE SPOKEN IN FAVOUR OF AGRAWAL
Brijmohan Agrawal (right) with chief minister Raman Singh