Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)
Rahul pulls the plug on Rana, setback to Capt
High command takes moral call on power minister in sand auction row, ED notice to son; Capt likely to drop him
CHANDIGARH: Less than a year in power and Captain Amarinder Singh is going to be one minister down. Sugar baron Rana Gurjit Singh, whom Amarinder had bestowed with plum portfolios of power and irrigation, has finally put in his papers after being hounded by controversies. Amarinder’s cabinet has nine ministers, including Rana. He has yet to fill the remaining eight slots.
It is learnt that the fiat came from Congress president Rahul Gandhi on feedback of state leaders as the corruption charges were “denting the party’s image”. The dust over involvement of Rana’s aides in the sand mining auctions -- through companies owned by family of his election agent, JS Randhawa and chartered accountant, TN Singla -- had not settled that Rana courted a fresh controversy over summons of Enforcement Directorate (ED) to his son, Rana Inder Partap Singh, for raising funds abroad without mandatory permissions.
Rana had disassociated himself from the business dealings of his aides involved in sand mining auctions but he cannot do so with his son, who is the managing director of family-owned Rana Sugars. Amid reports of being dropped, Rana tendered his resignation.
The development is a setback for CM. Rana was his confidant and personal pick for the cabinet. When the mining scandal erupted in May last year, the CM had set up a one-man inquiry commission under Justice JS Narang (retd), which gave the minister a “clean chit”. But Rana’s unenviable rival, leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira, and his detractors within the Congress, ensured “proofs” kept tumbling out against Rana. All this was also making the CM’s position on Rana untenable.
“When the government gives a clean chit to a minister, how can we stop our MLAs from indulging in sand mining? The party needs to give a clear message on corruption,” a senior party leader said. Some ministers too wanted Rana to go. Amarinder will be meeting Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and party general secretaries in-charge of Punjab, Asha Kumari and Harish Chaudhary, on Wednesday at New Delhi. Their meeting with Rahul is scheduled on Thursday. Jakhar said it is the CM’s prerogative to decide on a minister’s resignation. Rana’s exit may also finally see the much-awaited cabinet expansion take place sooner than later to fill nine slots in the 18-member cabinet after he goes.
Amarinder on Tuesday said Rana Gurjit had submitted his resignation from the cabinet voluntarily. The chief minister said he had not asked the minister to quit. “Nor was there any pressure on him to tender his resignation. The decision on the resignation will be taken after a discussion with the Congress president (Rahul Gandhi),” he said.
CHANDIGARH: At the centre of controversy after tendering his resignation from the cabinet that remains to be accepted, power minister Rana Gurjit Singh’s problems seem to be far from over. His son is to appear before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday in a case of violation of Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, (FEMA) by the family-owned company Rana Sugars Limited.
The ED had on January 2 issued summons to Inder Partap, who is managing director of Rana Sugars, a firm which is in collaboration with the state-run Punjab Agro Corporation, and raised doubts over $18 million (Rs 100 crore) raised abroad a decade ago by floating foreign shares, or GDRs (global depository receipts), allegedly without mandatory permission of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
When contacted, Inder Partap said, “I am going to appear before the ED office in Jalandhar with all documents that the agency has sought. All our funding is crystal clear, and we have not violated any RBI guideline.”
CIRCLE OF MONEY, VIA PORTUGAL
Officials in the ED — unnamed here since not authorised to speak with the media — said it is suspected that the Rana group company put in its own guarantees for loans taken by the investors abroad for subscribing to its shares. “Indian firms issuing GDRs have to comply with certain conditions under the FEMA, and filing of information with the RBI is mandatory. But the RBI has told ED that it has not been intimated if Rana Sugars issued any GDRs,” said an official.
The company is also accused of not filing any information regarding the use of the money in India. ED officials further said that as per information provided by the RBI, the money thus raised was kept in a bank in Portugal’s Madeira Island for some days before being transferred to India.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) also flagged the issue with the ED with recommendations of carrying out a probe, it is learnt.
Before issuing the summons, the ED wrote to Rana Sugars asking for copies of balance sheets from 2005-06 to 2007-08, along with details of GDRs issued by the company.
Inder Partap said, “Our company has provided all details available with us. These documents were submitted to the RBI as well. We will fully cooperate with the ED, and that’s why I am providing all documents to the it on Wednesday.”
He added that the issue was raised in 2008 as well and “at that time, too, the management of Rana Sugars submitted documents to the RBI”.