Infighting in the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee [JKPCC] turned dramatic on Tuesday as two of the party’s Cabinet Ministers, Taj Mohiuddin and Sham Lal Sharma, traded charges publicly and filed complaints before Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as well as the All India Congress Committee headquarters in New Delhi.
A day after Chairman of Legislative Council Amrit Malhotra refused to set up a House Committee and he endorsed the Public Health Engineering Minister Sham Lal Sharma’s action of holding a departmental inquiry into the irregularities in the procurement of pipes and an awareness programme, Mr Mohiuddin targeted his successor at a news conference. “This is a plot of settling personal scores as my name is under consideration for the position of JKPCC chief. My successor (Mr Sharma) and some others in my party are out to defame me to achieve their purpose”, Mr Mohiuddin said.
Why didn’t he approach the Chief Minister if he had a complaint against a ministerial colleague? What made him rush to the media directly? “The cabinet meeting is taking place today. I’m going to take it up [with the Chief Minister and other cabinet Ministers]”, Mr Mohiuddin disclosed. He said that he was also going to take up the matter with the Congress high command. However, it was not clear, whether or not the issue came up in the cabinet meeting later on Tuesday.
In the last four years, Mr Mohiuddin handled the PHE and Irrigation portfolio while as Mr Sharma held the charge of Health and Horticulture departments. In February this year, Chief Minister shifted Mr Sharma to PHE and Irrigation and Mr Mohiuddin to Medical Education. In reply to the discussion on the PHE grants, Mr Sharma had revealed in Legislative Council on March 26 that he had set up two departmental inquiries to investigate the “large scale irregularities” noticed in the procurement of pipes and the funds drawn on account of the expenditure on Communication and Capacity Development Unit of the PHE.
Mr Sharma revealed to The Hindu that the CCDU officials, headed by a retired Chief Engineer and Mr Mohiuddin’s close relative Najibullah Mir, appeared to have swindled an amount of Rs 45 Crore to Rs 47 Crore on account of generating awareness about the quality control maintenance among the PHE Department’s staff in the last three years. “Even this year, an amount of Rs 22 Crore had been earmarked for CCDU. Out of that, Rs 14.72 Crore has been drawn from the exchequer till date. But, there is no work, no account of the money drawn”, Mr Sharma said.
According to Mr Sharma, a Jharkhand-based NGO’s banner had been used to swindle the CCDU funds. He said that a four-member departmental inquiry, headed by Chief Engineer Irrigation Jammu K.K. Gupta, had already taken over the investigation into the CCDU scam as well as the alleged irregularities in the procurement of pipes.
At the news conference, Mr Mohiuddin, however, described himself as “the most hardworking and successful Minister in PHE”. He claimed that all the works and supply orders in his tenure were “as per law, rules and procedures”. Calling his detractor sarcastically as ‘Raja Harish Chander’, Mr Mohiuddin alleged that his successor in the PHE [Mr Sharma] had violated the principle of collective accountability of the Cabinet by saying in the Upper House that there had been “too many thieves” in the department. ‘
“As the PHE and Irrigation Minister, I collected water usage revenue of Rs 1,000 Crore a year from the NHPC [National Hydroelectric Power Corporation]. What has he [Mr Sharma] done in the last few weeks? All the crucial works have been stopped. NHPC has begun to default”, he said.