New Delhi, Sep 7 Union minister Vijay Goel today dismissed allegations by AAP of "misusing his position" to get tax benefit for his heritage property and claimed the same can be enjoyed by owners of other such buildings if they fulfill the criteria of conservation and restoration.
These are "baseless allegations" from the leaders of AAP who themselves are involved in the "scandals of sexual harassment, fake degree certificates, money in lieu of party tickets and extortion", Goel said. Goel, who owns the nearly 150-year-old Haveli Dharampura located in the Walled City, got the crumbling haveli painstakingly restored after six years of conservation work.
The heritage building falls in the area of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and the civic body has "waived off" its conversion charge amounting to Rs 25 crore. AAP had yesterday alleged that the decision was initially taken to "benefit" the heritage building owned by Geol in Old Delhi, but similar concessions were "later extended to 749 other buildings" in the area, which will result in losses to the tune of around Rs 2,500 crore to the NDMC.
Incidentally, NDMC has been working on the scheme to exempt property tax for listed heritage-building owners for past two years, and in August last, the House Tax Committee had unanimously agreed to exempt tax for heritage buildings in its area. There are about 900 havelis in north Delhi, especially in the Walled City area, among the heritage structures listed by the NDMC.
"We have been working on giving tax benefit to owners of heritage buildings as an incentive for them to keep such structures and keep them in good shape. The minister, approached the NDMC while getting his haveli restored for tax benefit, and it was given since it fulfilled the criteria," said, a senior civic official, who did not wish to be identified.
"Should parties be doing politics when it comes to preserving heritage buildings or should they not work together," the official said, adding, "other heritage property owners can also approach NDMC for the same."
Goel, in a statement released by Delhi BJP today, also hit back at Delhi government saying, "If AAP government does not want to give exemptions for the restoration, conservation and promotion of heritage buildings, then, in future AAP leaders may allege the efforts on the conservation and protection of Red Fort and Qutab Minar as 'wasteful'." The BJP leader also claimed that in February, he had "written a letter" to Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, wherein he emphasised on the issue of granting exemption and other facilities for heritage buildings in order to promote the heritage of Delhi."
The conversion charges on havelis can be waived off only when these structures are conserved and restored, Goel further claimed.