Last week, OpIndia.com had carried an exclusive report about how the brother of Ashok Gehlot – the former Chief Minister of Rajasthan and current in-charge of Gujarat Congress – was fined by Commissioner of Customs, Kandla for being involved in a syndicate that was found guilty of exporting subsidized fertilizers illegally.
Agrasain Gehlot, the brother of Ashok Gehlot, was accused by the Commissioner of Customs of selling Muriate of Potash (MOP) – a soil nutrient used in non-urea fertilizers – to a middleman who subsequently put fake labels on MOP and exported it to buyers in Malaysia and Taiwan. The order by commissioner stated that Gehlot was willingly part of this syndicate that operated between 2007 and 2009, when both Rajasthan and the center were ruled by the UPA.
Government provides duty exemptions and subsidies for importing MOP on the condition that it is sold only to farmers and for agricultural use only. Any other sale is deemed unauthorized and illegal. However, some individuals and firms, including Agrasain Gehlot, were found to be camouflaging MOP as salt and exporting it.
The commissioner of customs had imposed a penalty of around 5.5 crore rupees on Agrasain Gehlot, though harsher punishment could have been imposed given that order by the commissioner also indicted Gehlot of falsifying documents to show that MOP was sold to farmers. The case is currently pending in an excise and service tax appellate tribunal.
Citing the above OpIndia report, BJP today attacked Congress calling it a party synonymous with corruption. Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Prakash Javdekar told reporters in Delhi today that Congress indulged in doublespeak over issues of farmers.
“On one side Congress and its leaders talk about farmers and their issues, but the relatives of their party’s Gujarat in charge is stealing the farmer’s subsidy,” Javdekar reportedly said further asking if the Congress top leadership will take any action against Ashok Gehlot.
“This is a clear case of theft of subsidy and all this happened between 2007 to 2009, when Congress-led UPA was in power at the Center and during the period Gehlot had also assumed charge as the Rajasthan chief minister,” the union minister further said.
Javdekar further said that the way imported MOP was camouflaged as salt and exported at higher prices to make profits, one can’t rule out even money laundering involved in this case.
It should be noted that Ashok Gehlot is currently leading election campaign for the Gujarat unit of Congress and the state goes to polls next month. Given that Rahul Gandhi has been raising the issue of farmers welfare often, BJP could use this chink in armor of Ashok Gehlot to attack the Congress Vice President.