The Opposition in Punjab today stepped up its attack seeking immediate sacking of Cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh for allegedly acquiring sand and gravel mines through “benaami transactions in the name of his former cook and staff,” a charge vehemently denied by him.
Raising questions over the allotment of mines in the recently-concluded auction, main opposition AAP also sought a vigilance probe into the allotment.
AAP MLA Sukhpal Khaira said the party leaders would sit on ‘dharna’ outside the chief minister’s residence on May 30 if no action was taken against the minister.
“It is the money of Rana Gurjit Singh who pumped it through his four former employees to get mining contracts in Punjab,” Khaira alleged while claiming that there was a “big scam” in the allotment of the contracts.
Khaira also showed the copy of the purported income tax return of Amit Bahadur, one of the minister’s former cooks, to the media here.
“As per income tax return for the financial year 2014-15 of the former cook, his income was about Rs 95,000. He was getting an income of just Rs 11,706 per month. With such a meagre income, will a cook be able to bag mining contract of Rs 26 crore,” Khaira asked.
AAP MLA from Bholath said he has written to the Punjab Vigilance Bureau chief, demanding probe against the minister and his former employees.
He said he will also approach income tax authorities to launch an inquiry into the financial transactions conducted by the minister’s former staff for bagging the contracts.
The MLA demanded from Punjab CM to remove Rana Gurjit from his ministry immediately. “It is the biggest test of Punjab CM Amarinder Singh who has been claiming that his government is tough against corruption. He should now immediately sack his minister and if he takes this step, it will send across a message among public that the government was really serious against corrupt practices,” said Khaira.
“If Amarinder Singh chooses to remain silent on this issue, then people will assume that he is shielding his minister from strict action,” said Khaira.
Earlier, opposition SAD and BJP had also sought action against the Cabinet minister.
“Rana Gurjit Singh’s cook and other employees getting mining contracts worth crores is a classic example of what the Congressmen are upto,” Tarun Chugh, the national secretary of the BJP said in a statement citing media reports.
Senior SAD leader Prem Singh Chandumajra said the minister, who had allegedly openly abused his authority to indulge in “naked illegality”, should be proceeded against under relevant sections of the Income Tax Act.
“The case should also be handed over to the Enforcement Directorate for investigation as someone who was making ‘paranthas’ till last night has outbid 32 other big-wigs to acquire a Rs 26.51 crore mining site,” Chandumajra, who is also party MP, had alleged in a separate statement here.
However, power and irrigation minister Rana Gurjit clarified that neither he nor his company – Rana Sugars Limited – has any direct or indirect stakes, financial or otherwise, in the sand mining business.
The minister had categorically denied any links of his family members or employees with the sand mining business.
He termed as “incorrect” the reports in a section of the media claiming that his company employees had successfully bid for sand mines.
He said the employees in question had left their jobs a long time ago, which can be verified from the company’s records.
“Though I am personally not involved in the day-to-day functioning of my companies for the last about two decades, however, I can say with command and confidence that neither any of the employees working in these companies nor any of my family members has any interest or stake in sand mining business in Punjab,” he asserted.
“The fact that some of my former employees reportedly bid for the mines does not in any way imply that I have interests or stakes in the business,” the minister had said.
“There are thousands of employees who have worked with me and left from time to time and I cannot be held accountable for what they do after leaving my companies,” he had said.
Pointing out that his businesses had an annual turnover of more than Rs 1,000 crore, Rana Gurjit asked, “With a business already running into hundreds of crores of rupees, does it make any sense to indulge in a business of a few crores of rupees?”.