News report ‘planted’, says Rijiju; opposition seeks his ouster (Intro Roundup)
New Delhi, Dec 13 (IANS) Union Minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday slammed a daily for “planting” story about his alleged involvement in a power project scam even as the opposition demanded his resignation and thorough probe into the matter.
The union Power Ministry later issued a statement saying the report had made “totally false and baseless allegations”.
“It is a planted story. If they visit Arunachal Pradesh, they would be thrashed with shoes,” Minister of State for Home Affairs Rijiju told reporters here.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader’s comment came after a newspaper claimed that he had written letters to clear payments of contractors constructing two dams for the 600 MW Kameng Hydro Electric Project in Arunachal Pradesh, being executed by the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (Neepco).
The newspaper also quoted a report of the Chief Vigilence Officer of the Neepco, who claimed that there was a scam relating to an Arunachal Pradesh hydro project.
“Does serving people mean corruption,” Rijiju asked.
However, soon after stirring the controversy, Rijiju took to Twitter and said that the allegation was “really cheap”, and posted photographs of the letters he received from the people of Arunachal Pradesh.
“Really cheap! This is the copy of representation I received and forwarding letter to the Power Minister. Is it a corruption helping poor tribal folk?” Rijiju said.
He also said the Congress must apologise to the nation as all contract works and payments were made during its regime.
“Now the Congress must apologise to the nation. All contract works & payments were made during their regime. I just forwarded a memorandum,” he said in a series of tweets.
In a letter to Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal, Rijiju had requested release of pending payment for boulder transportation for the Kameng Hydro Electric Project in Arunachal Pradesh.
The Congress and the Aam Admi Party (AAP) on Tuesday demanded Rijiju’s resignation.
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said: “The minister has no right to remain on his post. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who talks of transparency and honesty, should get this (Rijiju’s involvement in the scam) investigated by an independent agency.”
“Until that time, the Prime Minister should either dismiss the Minister of State or ask for his resignation.”
Surjewala also demanded an investigation against all the senior officials associated with the project.
The Congress claimed that fake and inflated bills were submitted by contractors for the transportation of rocks for construction of dams and the methodology brought out by the CVO was very clear.
Quoting newspaper reports, AAP leader Ashish Khetan accused Rijiju of using his influence as a minister to help his cousin in what he called a “Rs 450-crore scam”.
“This is a serious matter. Kiren Rijiju has no right to remain a minister after being exposed in this scam. He should immediately resign from his post,” Khetan said.
He also urged the Prime Minister to order an independent probe into the alleged scam.
“We also request the Prime Minister to ensure that Rijiju and his family do not influence the probe,” he said.
Meanwhile, the union Power Ministry said in a release here that at no point did Rijiju recommend that payment be released.
“Hence, the letter written by MoS Home Affairs has no bearing on any payments released by NEEPCO as the payment had already been released before his letter under authorization of Shri Verma (then Chief Vigilence Officer of the Neepco),” the statement said.
In this connection, the statement clarified that the government does not interfere in the operational matters of public sector units.
“No instructions or directions by the Government were given to NEEPCO at any time for making any payments,” it added.