Rahul accuses Modi of taking bribes as Gujarat CM, BJP denies (Roundup)

Mehsana (Gujarat)/New Delhi, Dec 21 (IANS) Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of taking kickbacks of Rs 65 crore from corporate houses during his stint as Chief Minister of Gujarat and demanded an independent inquiry into the charge.

The BJP denied the allegation, terming it as an attempt to divert attention from the AgustaWestland probe in which the names of Congress leaders and the “family” were surfacing, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal sought a Supreme Court-monitored probe and the Congress said Modi should get a fair probe undertaken into the charge.

Addressing a public rally in north Gujarat, Modi’s home district, Gandhi said: “It is on the records of the Income Tax department that Modi received money from the Sahara Group nine times in six months (in 2013-14).”

Rolling out dates when Modi allegedly received money from the Sahara Group (Rs 5 crore seven times and Rs 2.5 crore twice), he said: “The Income Tax Department has this record from the Sahara Group’s diary for the last two and a half years and has recommended an inquiry.

“Narendra Modiji, tell us whether this allegation is true or not, order an independent investigation into this and come clean. You have made the entire country stand in queues for days. Now speak the truth,” Gandhi said to applause by the huge crowd.

“This is not all. There is one more record of the Birla Group (with the Income Tax Department). ‘Gujarat CM (to be paid) Rs 25 crore, Rs 12 crore paid, the rest?’ This is what is written there.

According to Gandhi, the kickbacks became known after an Income Tax raid on November 22, 2014 on the Sahara group when their records were seized, he said.

Gandhi said there were entries which showed that on October 30, 2013, Rs 2.5 crore was given to Modi, on November 12, Rs 5 crore, on November 27, Rs 2.5 crore and on November 29, another Rs 5 crore was handed over to him.

The allegations levelled by Gandhi were earlier taken to the Supreme Court by noted advocate Prashant Bhushan.

Kejriwal, who has also been making the same allegations at public rallies, sought a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the charges.

He also asked Modi to resign until he was cleared of the charges — like veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani did in 1996 after being linked to a Hawala scandal.

Kejriwal said he was the first to expose the bribery in the Delhi assembly on November 15 this year and had since been doing so at one public rally after another across the country.

He said the Supreme Court should take suo moto cognizance of the matter and set up a “fully independent” Special Investigation Team (SIT) with all powers to probe the charges against Modi.

Flashing what he claimed were Income Tax department papers, including four volumes of an Appraisal Report, Kejriwal said one of the corporate houses paid Modi Rs 40 crore in instalments.

Documents seized in the premises of another corporate house showed that a part of a Rs 25 crore bribe was given to Modi, he said.

“The nation has been betrayed,” Kejriwal said in New Delhi, referring to how Modi led the BJP to power in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls on the promise of fighting corruption by the Congress.

“But they turned out to be more corrupt than the Congress,” he said.

Hours after Gandhi made the allegation, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Congress leader was “frustrated” by repeated electoral losses.

“I condemn the shameful, baseless allegations of Rahul Gandhi. People will never believe it,” he said.

Citing the Agusta Westland scam, he said that Gandhi was trying to divert attention from the case that recently returned to the limelight following a report in a national daily.

“Names of Congress leaders are surfacing in the AgustaWestland scam. His family’s name has surfaced in the scam in Italy, and investigation is on here in India as well.

“He has given this statement to divert attention from the scam,” Prasad added.

Within an hour of the BJP press conference, Congress Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the BJP was “perturbed” and that “they did not answer whether or not Modi took money”.

He sought a probe, but added: “CBI cannot probe the Prime Minister.”

While not demanding Modi’s resignation directly, Surjewala cited the example of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who had resigned when the office of profit issue came up in 2006, and Advani resigning following allegations of his involvement in the infamous Hawala scam.

–IANS

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