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

- Sukhdeep Kaur sukhdeep.kaur@hin­dus­tan­times.com Mining · Industries · Chandigarh · Amarinder Singh · Indian National Congress · Punjab · New Delhi · Reserve Bank of India · India · Bank of India · Federal Emergency Management Agency · Portugal · Iceland · Rahul Gandhi · Sunil Jakhar · Asha Kumari · Harish Chaudhary · Jalandhar · Securities and Exchange Board of India · Khaira

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”.

 ?? FILE PHOTO ?? BIG BLOW: Punjab chief min­is­ter Cap­tain Amarinder Singh with Rana Gur­jit Singh.
FILE PHOTO BIG BLOW: Punjab chief min­is­ter Cap­tain Amarinder Singh with Rana Gur­jit Singh.
 ?? HT FILE ?? In­der Par­tap Singh is MD of Rana Sug­ars Lim­ited
HT FILE In­der Par­tap Singh is MD of Rana Sug­ars Lim­ited

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