activist claims Nitin Gadkari said he would not take a stand on irrigation scams since he had a business relationship with Sharad Pawar.

India against Corruption (IAC) activist Anjali Damania, who has fought illegal dams with the Right to Information (RTI) Act said on Wednesday that Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari said he would not take a stand on irrigation scams since he had a business relationship with the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar.

The NCP is in the centre of several scams over a decade, and its leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar resigned on Tuesday, citing the allegations against him.

Ms. Damania had earlier expressed her feelings at a press conference on Wednesday convened here by the IAC, but did not name Mr. Gadkari. However, she referred to a party president in the Opposition who refused to do anything to help her citing business interests with the NCP and how they took care of each other's interests. Strangely after the press conference, Mr. Gadkari issued a clarification that he had not met Ms. Damania though she had not named him.

This angered her, and she went public in some TV interviews. Ms. Damania told The Hindu that she met Mr. Gadkari on August 14 around 10 a.m. at his residence in Worli, Mumbai, since she had heard that a religious leader had asked the BJP not to pursue irrigation scams and dissuade BJP leader Kirit Somaiya from filing a public interest litigation petition on irrigation and other scams.

Her appointment with Mr. Gadkari was fixed by a friend who accompanied her, along with another person. “I was told that Mr. Gadkari was being persuaded by this religious leader to ask his colleagues in the party to ease up on irrigation scams, allegedly perpetrated by the NCP,” she said. The purpose of her meeting Mr. Gadkari was to sensitise him to the need to pursue such cases in public interest.

However to her shock and dismay, Mr. Gadkari said he had close links with the NCP, and in any case, Kirit was an eccentric man and he did not know what he was doing. Mr. Gadkari, she said, had told Mr. Somaiya that there was not need to file PIL petitions, and that was the work of activists. As party members, it was adequate to raise issues in the legislature or hold press conferences. Mr. Gadkari also hinted that in politics, there could be the possibility of seat-sharing with the NCP. “I was so upset that afternoon that I wrote a long text message which I sent to his personal number,” she said.

Ms. Damania and others and Mr. Somaiya had already filed petitions in the Bombay High Court against irrigation scams. Mr. Somaiya was to file one more petition against NCP Minister Sunil Tatkare on his alleged involvement in land scams.

She said there was no entry register at Mr. Gadkari’s house, but there was no way he could deny he had met her. She had met him once in New Delhi last year and in Mumbai in August last year. This was her third meeting. “I challenge him to a public debate and I will see how he doesn’t know me.”

“First he talks rot and then he lies. I had not named him at the press conference, then why did he clarify and say he has never met me,” she asked.

Meanwhile, Mr Gadkari has denied he had ever met her.