New Delhi: Ram Prasad Sharma, a BJP MP from Assam, has created a flutter in the state by accusing a minister of his own party’s government in the state of indulging in corruption.
Sharma, MP from the the state’s Tezpur constituency, told a local news channel Prime Time that Ranjit Dutta, the irrigation and handloom minister in the Sarbananda Sonowal government, is in the habit of taking “10% commission” for every contract given by his department. He said while several ministers in the BJP government are taking such commissions from contractors, he is sure of the information on Dutta.
Sharma, who first made the allegations in a sting operation by the local satellite channel, denied saying anything of the sort on October 3 when it was aired, but then owned up to it on October 4.
“One of my boys too recently got a contract by paying 10% commission to the minister. There are a few other ministers too who take commissions. Our chief minister, who is known for his honest and upright qualities, must inquire into this practice. We came to power by promising a corruption-free government,” Sharma said on TV.
With the issue getting a lot of public attention, the state BJP has called an “emergency meeting” on October 8 to discuss the allegations.
Soon after the news spread on October 4, Sonowal, who was on a visit to Dibrugarh in upper Assam, told reporters, “Our government has taken zero-tolerance stand against corruption. If R.P. Sharma has any proof, I will take strong action. We will not compromise with corruption. If there is any proof against the chief minister, then he will also have to face it.” He asked the MP to provide “proof” against Dutta, stating that he would take “strong action” if proven true.
Reacting to the accusation, Dutta, a four-time MLA from Behali, which comes under the Tezpur Lok Sabha constituency, has denied the allegation. Instead, he accused the MP of “breaking party discipline” by sharing his accusations with media first and not the party president.
“I have already lodged a complaint with BJP state president Ranjit Dass about it. These are baseless complaints, he has the habit of making such allegations,” Dutta told local reporters. He also said, “He talked about one of his ‘boys’, I don’t know whom is he referring to, at least I don’t think he has a son. I think he has a daughter who has been selected by the Assam State Public Service Commission and I have heard that he got it done.” Senior BJP leader Bijoya Bhagwati also castigated Sharma for not speaking to the party leadership first about his allegations.
On October 6, Sharma visited the party office in Guwahati to meet Dass. Speaking to the media later, he said, “I am willing to accept any punishment given to me by my party. I consider BJP as my biological mother, so I can’t see anyone bringing bad name to it.”
In March this year, Kujendra Doley, secretary in the irrigation department headed by Dutta, was arrested by the Anti-Corruption and Vigilance Wing of the Assam police after they apparently caught him red-handed accepting a bribe in his office, besides recovering cash worth Rs 45 lakh from his office drawers.