New Delhi, Oct 17 (IBNS) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari, against whom Arvind Kejriwal of India Against Corruption brought charges of grabbing farmers' land and water meant for irrigation in league with BJP's rival Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), on Wednesday said the allegations are baseless and he is not a businessman but a social entrepreneur.
He said it is a conspiracy of Congress and they (IAC) are a party to it so that BJP does not gain from the political space left empty by the scam tainted image of the former now.
He said he is open for any probe and anyone can visit the place and find out for itself the truth.
"I run a social enterprise that helps the farmers. The charges are baseless," said Gadkari reacting to the charges of Kejriwal that his sugar mills and power plants benefitted from the irrigation scam in Maharashtra.
IAC leader Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday fired his first major salvo at the opposition BJP by "exposing" a nexus between its president Nitin Gadkari and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ruling the coalition government in Maharashtra in grabbing land of farmers and diverting irrigation water to the power plants and sugar mills owned by him in the Vidarbha region, where countless farm debt stricken farmers committed suicide.
Kejriwal in a packed press conference citing the example of one village said: "Gadkari got the water and land meant for the farmers from NCP leaders like Ajit Pawar [who resigned as the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra over the Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam in the state]. This is not the story of one village, this is the story of entire Maharashtra."
"He [Gadkari] has a setting with the ruling party [NCP] and they tell each other- let both of us earn," said Kejriwal. He said it is a collusion of political interests that cheat the people of India.
He said in the name of farmers after they started committing suicide, funds were sent to Maharashtra from the state and centre and they were looted while water meant for farmers were diverted to big companies, including those owned by Gadkari, and the latter did not protest at all despite being in Opposition in own interest.
Gadkari said his sugar plants in fact benefits the farmers since farmers gain substantially by growing sugar cane.
On land grab in a particular village (about 48 hectares which over 100 acres) in Nagpur district of Maharashtra, Gadkari said the land in question was a wasteland after building a dam where he used new technologies to benefit farmers.
"We have got the land on lease. I or any private company has not got this land. There is nothing illegal about it," he said.
"I am working for Vidarbha farmers. By growing sugar cane I have tried to free the farmers from debts. This is not my business, it is my mission," said Gadkari.
"It is sad that for political gain someone tried to defame me," said Gadkari.
The BJP also called a press conference immediately where senior leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad refuted the charges.
"Kejriwal used the press conference as political platform," said Swaraj. She said he is offering the sugar canes in subsidized rate.
Swaraj said it is wrong to say water for farmers is diverted for the power plant of Gadkari.
"Only 0.85 percent water goes to Gadkari´s plant," said Swaraj.
"We all stand by Gadkari, he is clean and there is no substance to the allegations," said Swaraj.
She said the press conference was a flop since Kejriwal tried hard to taint Gadkari but failed.
"The press conference is failed attempt to bring a moral equivalence between the Congress and BJP," said BJP leader Arun Jaitley.
He said IAC tried to make a mountain of not even a mole hill and damaged their own credibility.
"Only for 11 years in 2006 a trust (Gadkari run) got a lease to grow sugar cane so that farmers can benefit. That too for sampling," said Jaitley.
He said it was an initiative to grow sugar cane there so that farmers can benefit.
The NCP, meanwhile, said nothing said in the press conference is new and a probe has been already ordered in Maharashtra to find out the truth.