Haryana land cases again haunt Hooda and Congress
New Delhi, Jan 25: Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Haryana land deals were again in news on Friday after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided his residence and other places related to him.
The raids were carried out at over 30 places in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), Punjab, Haryana over alleged irregularities in land allotment during Hooda's tenure in the state.
When the CBI sleuths reached Hooda's residence in Rohtak then he was reportedly present at his home and was planning to address a rally in favour of Congress candidate Randeep Singh Surjewala for Jind by-poll scheduled for January 28.
The case pertains to 1,407 acres in Gurgaon where the previous Congress government led by Hooda had issued a notification on June 2, 2009 under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 for acquiring the land of Nagli Umarpur, Tigra, Ullhawas, Kadarpur, Maidawas, Badshahpur, Behrampur and Ghata for the purpose of development of residential Sectors 58 to 63 and residential-commercial Sectors 65 to 67.
The land acquisition collector finally passed the award only for 87 acres on December 22, 2011. Thus, there was release of about 95% of the notified land for acquisition. Taking the CBI investigation into the release of land in Manesar into consideration, the Supreme Court, while hearing a petition, had ordered a CBI probe into the acquisition and release process.
Under the Land Acquisition Act 1894, the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) and Haryana State Industrial Development Corporation (HSIDC) have powers to acquire land under Section 4 & 6 through the issuance of notifications, while the award of licence is announced under Section 9.
The Congress was miffed over the raids and alleged that it was an attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Union Government to harass opposition leaders.
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma told reporters in New Delhi that the Narendra Modi government is rattled and sensing an imminent defeat, Prime Minister Modi was taking such actions.
He further warned the officials that the governments don't have permanency and when the new Union Government assumes charge after the general elections then the officials, who have been acting on the directions of today's political masters, will have to answer.
Is uneasiness behind Sharma's warning to CBI officials?
The political analysts say the way Sharma has warned CBI officials shows that there is 'uneasiness' in the grand old party due to Haryana land allotment cases have indirect affect on Congress' top brass.
While a Haryana land allotment case involves Associated Journal Limited (AJL) in which two senior Congress leaders Motilal Vohra and Oscar Fernandes are directors, the other case involves new Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's husband Robert Vadra.
AJL Land Allotment Case
In December last year, the CBI special court summoned Hooda and Motilal Vohra in the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) land case.
AJL is the publisher of National Herald, a newspaper closely associated with the Congress party.
Hooda, who was the then chief minister of Haryana, is accused of allotting a plot to the subsidiary of AJL in 2005 at the market rates of 1982 i.e. Rs 91 per sq m.
Hooda is accused of causing a loss of Rs 67 crore to Haryana Urban Development Authority
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached the controversial plot saying it was allotted fraudulently and the AJL had acquired loans from a bank by mortgaging the same plot despite the fact that the allotment was illegal.
Vadra and Haryana Land Allotment
In September last year, Haryana Police booked Robert Vadra and Hooda for alleged irregularities in land deals in Gurugram.
The police registered the case against Vadra, Hooda and others on September 1 at Kherki Daula police station on the complaint of Surender Sharma, a resident of Tauru, who alleged that a company belonging to Vadra's Skylight Hospitality had cheated people and the government.
Sharma alleged that when Hooda was Haryana Chief Minister and held the portfolio of the Town and Country Planning Department then Vadra's company Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd purchased 3.5 acres of land in Gurugram's Sector 83 from Onkareshwar Properties for Rs 7.50 crore in 2008 and later sold it to real estate major DLF at a price of Rs 58 crore after procuring commercial license for the development of the colony with the influence of Hooda.
In October, 2012, when the Congress was still in power in Haryana, senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka cancelled the mutation of the land deal between Skylight Hospitality and DLF. It was mired in controversy over allegations of undervaluation.
Vadra has denied the allegation and termed it as political vendetta by saying that he will "always be used for political gains".
Is it really a political vendetta?
After Friday's raid, Hooda too said that the raids were a result of political vendetta and would fight the battle himself. But, is it really a case of political vendetta?
The timing of the CBI raids may give the BJP political advantage but calling entire Haryana land allotment cases political vendetta is misleading as even state's land scam cases have landed before the Supreme Court of India.
In 2016, the apex court quashed the "illegal" and "deceptive" licensing of 280 acres of land in Rohtak, Haryana in 2006 to Uddar Gaggan Properties Ltd. It gave huge relief to farmers and landowners.
The Supreme Court judgement was a blow to Hooda and other state officials who are facing multiple probes for facilitating the private enrichment of builders through similar illegal licencing.
It referred to then "the unholy nexus to promote the private interests" of builders by "transfer of resources of poor for the benefit of the rich", through "gross abuse of law" and "clear fraud".
There are a total of 6 CBI cases and several other vigilance department investigations against Hooda underway.