The BJP on Wednesday questioned land deals involving Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to allege the Congress has come to define "family corruption", even as the opposition party termed the charges "baseless" and an attempt to divert attention from "rampant joblessness" and "agrarian crisis". BJP leader and Union minister Smriti Irani cited a media report on land deals allegedly in favour of the Congress president and his sister, who is also a party general secretary, claiming that the country has come know that not only the "jija" (Robert Vadra) but his brother-in-law Rahul Gandhi was involved in this "family package of corruption".
Referring to the report, Irani told a press conference that Rahul Gandhi purchased land in a deal involving H L Pahwa, who was raided by the Enforcement Directorate, and Mahesh Kumar Nagar, who also had a role in land transaction involving Robert Vadra. "Investigation has revealed that C C Thampi had funded this land deal involving Pahwa and Gandhi. The people of the country will know that Thampi is also being probed. Thampi's friendship with Robert Vadra and controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari is well known," she said.
Irani alleged that Thampi and Bhandari were linked to defence and petroleum deals during the UPA rule. Responding to the allegation, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked why had the BJP not probed the deal in the last five years if there there was wrongdoing.
He claimed that facing "imminent defeat in the 2019 general elections, and finding no answer to the rampant joblessness, agrarian crisis, economic slowdown, all-pervading corruption and social unrest, a frustrated Modi government and its perpetually peeved Union ministers like Smriti Irani, have lost their balance and equilibrium". Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Irani were making "completely baseless" charges to divert attention from real issues such as "rampant joblessness" and "agrarian crisis", he told a press conference.
"The prime minister and his favourite minister Smriti Irani are resorting to levelling completely baseless and false allegations," the Congress.leader claimed, adding the BJP wants to divert people's attention from real issues. "Smriti ji has got so blinded by her desire for revenge against Rahul Gandhi along with her mentor Narendra Modi that she is resorting to fake and false allegations as a diversionary tactic to give cover fire to the prime minister. But they are never going to succeed," he said.
In her remarks, Irani said Robert Vadra is "merely a mask" in the controversial land deals and his brother-in-law Rahul Gandhi is the "real face". The Congress president should answer about his relations with Pahwa in these land transactions, Irani said, adding the opposition party was known for "institutionalising corruption" and has now come to define "family corruption".
The BJP leader also alleged that Rahul Gandhi's opposition to a defence deal, an apparent reference to the Rafale transaction, was due to his "financial and family" interests as he wanted a rival company to bag the contract. Rejecting the charges against the Congress president, Surjewala said on March 3, 2008, Rahul Gandhi purchased 6.456 acres of land in Hassanpur Village, Palwal district, Haryana.
The land was bought for a total price of Rs 26,47,000, that was paid for by cheque, which is the equivalent of Rs 4,10,006 per acre, he said. On July 26, 2012, Rahul Gandhi gifted the 6.4 acres of land to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra through a gift deed, registered in the office of sub-registrar. They also paid stamp duty of Rs 1,93,700 on the registered gift deed, Surjewala said.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on August 12, 2014, gifted the land to Vipassana Sadhna Sansthan, a not-for-profit spiritual organisation. Purchase of land was done by Rahul Gandhi out of his own funds paid from his bank account. At no point of time, this purchase of a small piece of land and consequent gift to a spiritual organisation has any connection with any individual, Surjewala clarified.
About Irani's claim regarding the defence deal, Surjewala said it was the UPA that had shortlisted only one company -- Dassault Aviation -- for awarding the 126 fighter jet contract. So there was no question of any other firm coming into the picture, the Congress.leader said.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra later claimed that Congress.leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal appeared for Sanjay Bhandari, thus "exposing the unholy nexus" between the controversial arms dealer and Rahul Gandhi. "The unholy nexus between Rahul Gandhi & arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari stands completely exposed, not only because of Money trails but also by the fact that Kapil Sibal & the legal team of Congress today is standing for Sanjay Bhandari in the court ..too much of coincidence (sic)?," Patra tweeted.
(With inputs from agencies.)