New Delhi, Feb 27: The Congress said Friday that corporate house Essar was wooing BJP leader and now cabinet minister Nitin Gadkari when it offered him a holiday on its French cruise. The BJP, however, made light of the media expose also involving Congress leaders and journalists.
Congress leader P.C. Chacko said corporates always tried to "cultivate" politicians, adding: "It is up to the politicians to keep away from these types of allurement.
"No corporate will extend benefits to anybody for free because they expect some quid pro quo," Chacko told Times Now channel.
The Congress leader refused to accept Gadkari's argument that he was a nobody when, according to the Indian Express, Essar Group sponsored a two-night holiday on an Essar luxury yacht in the French Riviera for Gadkari and his family July 7-9, 2013.
The Gadkaris were flown to the yacht in a helicopter from Nice airport and returned the same way.
If Gadkari was a "nobody", Essar "would not have taken him seriously", Chacko said. "They knew he is important in his party and also he is going to be someone more important, so they will get some benefit out of that."
The Bharatiya Janata Party was, however, dismissive of the report.
"This kind of news keeps coming every day. We don't need to react to this," BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told the media.
The Express report, based on leaked internal Essar communication, detailed how the group cultivated individuals in positions of power and influence and showered them with gifts and favours to push its business interests.
Those who sought - and got - favours from Essar included politicians from other parties including the Congress as well as journalists, the Express said in a front-page report.
Gadkari admitted to using Essar's French yacht but argued that there was no conflict of interest as he held no public office then. "I will not do so now that I am a minister... But then I wasn't, neither an MP nor BJP president."
Although Gadkari had ceased to be the BJP president when he used the Essar yacht, the Express quoted an Essar mail to the yacht captain describing the Gadkaris as "very important people ... see they are comfortable".
The Express also said that Congress leaders Sriprakash Jaiswal, a former central minister, Digvijaya Singh and Motilal Vora -- both former chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh -- as well as BJP's Varun Gandhi, MP, sought jobs in Essar for people they knew.
Jaiswal told the daily that he "may have recommended a few people to Essar". He added: "I used to frequently recommend unemployed youth from my constituency."
Digvijaya Singh, however, said he did not recollect this case. "I do not deny that I used to regularly give references to those who needed assistance."
The daily quoted a senior company executive as suggesting in one email that 200 slots be earmarked for VIP "referrals", and a separate data bank maintained.
The Express said a whistleblower had decided to go public with internal company communications of the Essar group that allegedly show how the company cultivated individuals in positions of power and influence, showered them with gifts and favours to advance its business interests.
The correspondence, which includes purported emails and memos, refers to meetings with government officials and alleged favours to ministers, bureaucrats and journalists.
This is now a subject matter of a public interest litigation, to be filed in the Supreme Court by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation.
An Essar spokesman told the Express: "It is apparent that some of the material is fabricated and some of the allegations are conclusions and inferences being drawn from emails stolen from our computers.
"Stealing emails constitutes theft and ... Delhi Police is taking strong steps against persons stealing information..."