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Sangh Parivar's U-turn on land deal



Sunny Sebastian

Not to go ahead with taking possession of land

Earlier Ministers had said there was nothing illegal about the dealCongress men had filed PILs in High Court on the issue

JAIPUR: The Sangh Parivar has backtracked on the controversial Deendayal Upadhyaya Trust land deal, deciding not to go ahead with the possession of land allocated to it by the Jaipur Development Authority at a concessional rate.

The explanation given for what appears to be a strategic retreat is a certain clause in the JDA rules that does not allow transfer or sale of the land once given this way and the condition that once the trust is dissolved the land would go back to the authority.

The decision comes after consistent denials by Ministers and other BJP functionaries that there was anything "illegal" about the land deal in which the Trust has already paid Rs.36.19 lakhs to the JDA. Only the other day while talking to journalists in Kota, BJP State president Mahesh Sharma had justified the land deal maintaining that the previous Congress Govt. too had allocated land to trusts.

A meeting of the members of the Trust, of which Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is the chairperson, here on Tuesday "unanimously" decided not to procure the 6434.75 sq metres of land allocated to it by the JDA in the posh Residency area at 5 per cent of the market rate.

The issue, involving land worth some Rs.70 crores and a lot of explanation on the part of the ruling party here -- as there were anomalies in the way the land was sought and was granted and the way the trust was registered -- had been proving a weapon in the hands of the Opposition Congress to badger the Raje Government. The Pradesh Congress Committee a fortnight ago had approached Governor Pratibha Patil seeking permission to prosecute Chief Minister and other Ministers in this connection.

The Congress functionaries and others together have filed three public interest petitions in the Rajasthan High Court on the issue while court notices to the State and the CBI are pending.

Speaking from Delhi, Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot termed the move a "face-saving" effort. "The seriousness of the issue does not go away by not taking the land. The crimes have been committed. We seek the prosecution of Ms. Raje and other Ministers involved," he said.

Ms. Raje herself was not present at the meeting attended by other trustees who include Home Minister G.C.Kataria, general secretary of the State BJP Prakash Chand, former State president Bhanwarlal Sharma and Jaipur Mayor Ashok Parnami. The consent of Ms.Raje and other trustees, including senior party men Lalit Kishore Chaturvedi and Ramdas Agarwal was reportedly taken on telephone.

A day after the decision to pull out of the deal, senior functionaries of the BJP and the RSS here were wary of commenting on the issue. Mayor Parnami, who had moved the application for land with the JDA in March 2005, even before the Trust was formally registered, said there was no question of returning the land as the Trust, in the first place, did not take possession of the land. "We are taking back the application for the land. We don't agree to the clause that once the trust ceases to exist the land would go back to the JDA. There are other clauses also which are not acceptable to us," Mr. Parnami said.