The Congress on Monday accused the NDA vice-presidential candidate M Venkaiah Naidu and his family of corruption, a charge the former BJP chief dismissed as false and politically motivated.
The main opposition party alleged that the former Union urban development minister and his children took favours from the Telangana and Madhya Pradesh governments to “grab land” and boost trusts and businesses associated with the family.
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, making the accusations during a media briefing in the national capital, asked Naidu to come clean since he has been a “great champion of transparency, accountability, integrity and probity” in public life.
Naidu denied the charges, saying the allegations have been answered in the past.
“It is evident that these issues have been referred to a few days before the vice-presidential elections, clearly reflecting on the political motive and mischievous intentions,” he said.
The 68-year-old leader was declared the ruling BJP-led alliance’s choice for the vice-president’s post a week ago. He then resigned from the party as well as the urban development, and information and broadcasting ministries in the Union government.
With numbers favouring the NDA, Naidu is considered a favourite to win the August 5 election against opposition nominee Gopal Krishna Gandhi.
He responded to a string of allegations the Congress made.
Ramesh asked: “Is it not a fact that on June 20, 2017, the Telangana government issued an order that has been kept secret, exempting the Swarna Bharat Trust of Naidu’s daughter from paying charges amounting to more than Rs 2 crore to the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority?”
“Is it not a fact that such an exemption has no precedent and it has been done because his daughter is the managing trustee of the organisation?”
In response, Naidu said the Telangana government had clarified that the trust was given exemption to encourage it to do social service.
In another question, Ramesh asked: “Is it not a fact that in July 2014, the Telangana government placed an order amounting to about Rs 271 crore for the purchase of vehicles for police from two companies, Harsha Toyota owned by Naidu’s son and Himanshu Motors owned by the son of the Telangana chief minister?”
Naidu responded that Harsha Motors never dealt directly with the state government. The vehicles were provided by the parent company, Toyota Kirloskar, and the payment was made to it, he said.
The Congress also made allegations about a trust linked to Naidu.
Ramesh asked: “Is it not a fact that on 25.09.2004, Kushabhau Thakre Memorial Trust with Naidu as chairman was allotted 20 acres in Shahpura, Bhopal, valued at a few hundred crore rupees, lease deed of which was registered on 06.01.2007?”
“Is it not a fact that this land was allotted by the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh for a pittance of one-time premium of Rs 25 lakh and a yearly rent of Re 1?”
He alleged that the “land use” was changed from “residential and forestry” to “commercial” as an act of favouritism by the BJP government.
“Is it not a fact that all this was done without inviting an application in public domain in a completely arbitrary and whimsical fashion? Is it not a fact that the Supreme Court quashed this allotment on 06.04.2011 in a PIL and passed stringent strictures of ‘political favourtism’ and cancelled the allotment of land?” he asked.
Dismissing the charge, Naidu said he had no role in the land allotment as the BJP chief during that time. And he countered: “Isn’t it a fact that several trusts were similarly allotted land by various governments, including the Congress?”
Ramesh also asked if Naidu, then the BJP president, was not accused of grabbing 4.95 acres in Andhra Pradesh reserved for the poor.
“Is it not a fact that on August 17, 2002, Naidu was forced to return the land after public embarrassment and accusations of wrongdoing?”
For his part, Naidu said Congress leaders raised the issue in 2002 and approached courts but charge of land grabbing was dismissed.