Union Minister Kiren Rijiju was in the eye of a political storm today over an alleged Rs 450 crore scam in a power project in Arunachal Pradesh after he wrote a letter to the Power Ministry to clear the bills of contractors, provoking opposition demand for his ouster but he denied any wrongdoing.
The controversy erupted over news reports that the Chief Vigilance Officer of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) Satish Verma, an IPS officer of Gujarat cadre who probed the Ishrat Jahan encounter case as part of the Special Investigation Team, had sent a report to the CBI, CVC and the Power Ministry highlighting alleged corruption in construction of two dams as part of the 600 mw Kameng Hydel project.
In his report, Verma was said to have named Kiren Rijiju and Goboi Rijiju, who he claimed was the minister's cousin, while alleging an "elaborate conspiracy" involving contractors, NEEPCO officials and the West Kameng district administration to defraud the state-run company and the government of funds that "may extend up to Rs 450 crore".
Alleging that it was a Rs 450-crore scam committed by using false and inflated transportation bills, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala released an audio tape of a purported conversation of the minister's claimed cousin with Verma, and Rijiju's letter recommending that held up payments be released.
"Kiren Rijiju has no right to stay in office. He should either be dismissed by the Prime Minister or asked to resign till an independent probe is complete," he said.
The opposition party also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying his "tall claims" of bringing transparency have "fallen flat" as had happened with several other scandals in the past including Vyapam, Lalitgate and the Vijay Mallya issue.
"Mr Modi's claims of transparency and honesty is now under question. People of India are looking at what action he takes on this issue," Surjewala said.
Rejecting Congress' charge of his complicity in the alleged scam, Rijiju said he had only forwarded a memorandum received from "petty contractors" from his village to Power Minister Piyush Goyal on November 4, 2015 to get their petition considered on a priority.
"I have written the letter to the Power Minister after I received representations from some people in my constituency in Arunachal West regarding pending bills. I have done no wrong and there is no corruption."
Peeved at the allegations, the Minister said, "Those who planted the story will be beaten up with shoes when they will come to our area."
He also denied that Goboi Rijiju was related to him, saying, "Among tribals in a village, everybody is a cousin. He is not related to me by blood. I have no brothers. Both my elder and younger brothers have expired.