The way he went missing, resurfaced for a while and again went missing raises serious questions

Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari has denied all allegations levelled against him by India Against Corruption (IAC) activist Arvind Kejriwal about “farmer Gajanan Ghatage's land grab.”

Speaking to a Marathi news channel IBN Lokmat, Mr. Gadkari said: “The land which is alleged to be grabbed by me is still under the ownership of the Maharashtra government.”

“Ghatage is still tilling the land which is alleged to be acquired by me. We did not take possession of his land and we have not got [Madhavrao] Bhagat family’s land, we have got nothing to do with their land. Gajanan Ghatage became the shareholder of [Gadkari’s firm] Purti [Power and Sugar] Limited in 2002. He was then the Deputy Sarpanch of that village. His share application no is 1303 and the date of allotment is August 30, 2002 and certificate no is 3494. As Deputy Sarpanch, he had helped us in getting the land, so there is no dispute between Ghatage and us,” Mr. Gadkari told the channel.Mr. Gajanan Ghatage confirmed that he was a shareholder of Purti Limited. “I never used the word that Gadkari grabbed my land in front of Anjali Damania [IAC activist]. I showed her all documents when I met her. I also told her that the land was given to Gadkari’s company by the Irrigation Department and as Deputy Sarpanch, I had given an NOC to the sugar factory, not to the power plant.”

Asked about his elder brother Vishvanath Ghatage’s suspicion that the land was given only to Mr. Gadkari’s factory, Gajanan said: “Only he can tell you about it, I can’t. One should be in one’s senses while speaking. Gadkari Saheb did not take my land. That land was leased out to him by the Irrigation Department, so I can’t make accusations against him.”

Asked whether some men from Purti Limited came to acquire his land, he said: “Yes, but I refused to hand over the land and they went back.”

But according to Mr. Vishvanath Ghatage, Gajanan had to resist them “furiously and forcefully when they came to acquire his land and Gajanan is not on very good terms with Jaikumar Varma, a Zila Parishad member and deputy chairman of Purti Sugar factory.”

“I do have some issues with Varma but it’s a different matter” says Gajanan.

“No one tells the truth”

One villager told this correspondent on Friday that Gajanan was “pressured to make the statements he is making now,” adding, “No one will tell you the truth Saheb, almost everyone from this village works in this factory.”

The way Gajanan Ghatage went missing, resurfaced for a while and again went missing raises serious questions.

Right after the press conference by Mr. Kejriwal and Ms. Damania on October 17, Gajanan went missing. He says he did not want to become “a Bakara” like Law Minister Salman Khurshid. But he surfaced the next morning and gave an interview to a Marathi news channel ABP Majha, saying he had no issues with Mr. Gadkari.

Gajanan said an IBP Majha reporter saw him on his farm where he was hiding and he had to give that interview. He again went missing and his brother expressed apprehensions about his well-being.

“Did not inform my family”

Gajanan said: “This is my habit and I go without informing my family. I have stayed for more than a week without informing my family.”

But his wife Durga Ghatage contradicted him on Friday. “He doesn't go anywhere without informing me,” she had told The Hindu.

On Friday morning, Mr. Vishvanath Ghatage told this correspondent that Gajanan was in Gadchiroli and would be back by the evening.

But Gajanan disputed this: “I was near the village only, on my farm.”

But almost all TV channel crews had searched his farm on October 18, the day he went missing but they could not find him.

Gajanan’s farm labourers and his son Shubham had also denied that he was on his farm. But Gajanan says he was hardly 200 metres from the media people. He maintains that he was never threatened or kidnapped. He went into hiding on his own “scared by the cavalcade of TV crews which were coming to my home.”

Gajanan and his family members continue to make contradictory statements raising doubts about the whole issue.

This article has been corrected for an editing error.