India's federal minister denies involvement in 450-crore power project scam
India's junior interior minister Kiren Rijiju hit back at allegations against him over a 450-crore power projects scam in the northeastern Arunachal Pradesh state saying that those who "planted" the story against him "will be beaten up with shoes."
"Those who planted the story will be beaten up with shoes when they will come to our area," the Tawang MP told the press reacting to media reports that he had written a letter to power minister Piyush Goyal seeking early clearance of bills related to a hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh.
He also said writing the letter was his duty as a Member of Parliament to take action on representations given by his constituents.
"I have written the letter to the power minister after I received presentations from some people in my constituency in Arunachal West regarding pending bills. I have done no wrong and there is no corruption," Rijiju said.
Rijiju has been accused of corruption in the construction of two dams in one of the biggest hydro-electric projects in the state, in a 129-page report by the power supply unit's chief vigilance officer.
The report by the PSU's chief vigilance officer Satish Verma claims that Rijiju, his 'distant' cousin Goboi Rijiju and several top officials of the state-run North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO) conspired to defraud the government of funds that "may extend up to Rs 450 crore."
The opposition party, Congress, alleged that the Rs 450-crore scam was committed by using false and inflated transportation bills. Its chief spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala, released an audio tape of a purported conversation of Goboi Rijiju with Verma, and Rijiju's letter recommending that held up payments be released.
Rijiju's party, the ruling BJP, slammed the Congress' charge against its minister as "political desperation." It claimed that the contract under question was awarded when the Congress was in power in both the centre and Arunachal Pradesh and that it was was only "incriminating itself by referring to any irregularities in these projects."
The BJP also alleged Verma worked as a "political fixer" for Congress and that he was removed from the post on the Central Vigilance Commission's directions for "misdemeanours and dereliction of duty".
Verma's report was sent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the ministry of power in July this year. The conspiracy allegedly involves contractors, NEEPCO officials and the West Kameng district administration. The site of the project, West Kameng, falls under the parliamentary constituency of Rijiju.
The Press Trust of India reported that the Central Bureau of Investigation made two "surprise checks", but no first information report has been registered yet.
Soon after he filed the report, NEEPCO pulled up Satish Verma for "unauthorised absence" and got him transferred to Tripura state.
(With inputs from PTI)