BY DEEPAK SHARMA
New Delhi, July 11 (IANS) Ahead of the crucial assembly by-elections in Uttar Pradesh, dates for which are expected to be announced soon, the two key opposition leaders of the ruling BJP, Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP), appear to be in big trouble as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing two fresh cases of corruption against them.
The by-elections will be for 12 assembly seats.
The Rs 1,100 crore sugar mills scam, which is unraveling the bureaucrat-political nexus in selling state assets, involves Mayawati’s former secretary Netram while a multi-crore sand mining scam links Akhilesh Yadav’s aide Gayatri Prajapati with six bureaucrats in looting public resources.
Sources in the CBI said that after Wednesday’s raids at various premises of former SP Minister Prajapti and three IAS officers in UP, the agency can question Yadav during whose tenure, as UP chief minister, the mining scam took place.
Sources said that before Prajapati was appointed cabinet minister, then chief minister Yadav had held the mining portfolio from March 2012 to July 2013. During this period, the chief minister’s office had reportedly cleared several files related to lease of mines.
The CBI would be auditing these files to ascertain whether the then chief minister’s office had followed laid down procedure for approving the lease of mines.
In Prajapati’s case, CBI discovered that mandatory e-tendering norms were grossly violated. As minister, Prajapati approved the lease of mines directly for contractors of his choice. Subsequently, on Prajapati’s instruction, the then mining secretary and district magistrates concerned signed on the files to execute the lease.
Sources said that though Prajapati was sacked by Yadav at a later stage, the violations were ignored by the chief minister’s office. As of now, the CBI is gathering more evidence on the scam and would further interrogate three IAS officers of UP to establish the role of the chief minister’s office during Yadav’s tenure.
While Yadav faces trouble in the days to come, his erstwhile alliance partner Mayawati too seems to be in deep waters. For Mayawati the problem stems from the fact that her most trusted bureaucrat, Netram, has been raided by CBI in the sugar mills scam.
Sources said that Mayawati’s fate now depends on the disclosure statement of Netram to CBI relating to approvals for disinvestment of 21 sugar mills. According to the CBI FIR, sugar mills were sold at throwaway prices in 2010-11. Mayawati was UP chief minister from 2007 to 2012.
Sources said that Netram, who ruled the roost in UP during Mayawati’s chief ministership, has earlier faced income tax raids over suspected tax evasion amounting to Rs 100 crore. Another close aide of Mayawati, Vinay Priya Dubey, a former managing director of UP State Sugar Corporation, has also been raided by the CBI in connection with the sugar mills scam.
Sources said that Mayawati, who steered away from the Disproportionate Assets Case earlier, now faces a tough time as CBI interrogates members of the inner coterie of the BSP supremo in the scandal which has of late rocked politics in Lucknow.
The by-elections are crucial for both Mayawati and Yadav because, after the poor showing by their parties in the Lok Sabha polls, they will decide who is the principal opponent of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state.
BY DEEPAK SHARMA