New Delhi, Aug. 22: BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu, caught in an
alleged land scam in home state Andhra Pradesh, sought to end the controversy by returning the 4.95 acres allotted to him in 1978 by the state government from the quota meant for the poor and the landless.
Speaking from Hyderabad, Naidu said he had taken the decision on his own without consulting the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister.
“I no longer live in the village and the land in question is not being cultivated either. If some people are trying to draw political mileage from the issue, I have given my response to them,” he said.
The controversy was set off by a report alleging that in 1978, Naidu and his family members had got the land — meant for the landless as part of a welfare measure taken by the then Congress government — allotted in their names when he became a legislator from the Udayagiri constituency in Nellore district.
The report said that although under the rules no allotment could exceed five acres, Naidu allegedly used his clout as a legislator to claim 40.15 acres in his own name and those of his brother-in-law, father-in-law and others.
According to the report, he took care to ensure no allotment exceeded four acres and the total allocation was broken up into small plots in the survey records. The records say 4.95 acres were allotted in his name under different survey numbers.
The exposure came at a time when the NDA government and the BJP were being rocked by a series of scams — from petrol pump licence distribution to the gifting away of prime land in Delhi to RSS outfits and the alleged complicity of minister Pramod Mahajan in journalist Shivani Bhatnagar’s murder.
An hour before he left for Hyderabad, Naidu addressed the media in Delhi, but gave no hint that he would make such a move. He spoke on the Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir elections and about a drought committee his party had constituted.
Observers believe that although the BJP would like to project the decision as a “quick response to a politically motivated charge”, the effect would be the opposite: Naidu’s surrender of the land would be seen as confirmation of the allegation.
Agencies quoted a statement by the Nellore district collector which said that Naidu contacted him on August 17 — a day after the report — and expressed his intention to relinquish the land in question. He subsequently sent a letter to the officer, requesting him to distribute the land to those deemed to be landless in the village. The collector said no land was usurped by Naidu or his family and that the controversial 4.95 acres were given by the government because he was “landless” at that time.