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Gadkari defame salvo after cover-up charge

Nitin Gadkari speaks on the second day of the BJP’s national executive meeting at Surajkund on Thursday. Picture by Prem Singh

Sept. 27: An RTI activist has accused Nitin Gadkari of having refused to help her expose the Maharashtra irrigation scam because of his alleged business links with Sharad Pawar, prompting the BJP president to send her a defamation notice.

Mumbai-based activist Anjali Damania, who helped bring to light the scandal over which NCP deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar has resigned, claimed last night she had met Gadkari in August this year to seek his help.

Damania is part of the Arvind Kejriwal-led India Against Corruption (IAC) and acknowledges a family tie with the RSS, to which Gadkari is close.

Gadkari, who is at the BJP national executive in Surajkund, denied her allegation last night itself and said he had never met Damania.

Following this, the IAC today released screenshots of a text message Damania had purportedly sent Gadkari on August 14, hours after allegedly meeting him at his home in Worli, Mumbai.

Gadkari’s counsel, Supreme Court lawyer S.S. Shamshery, served the notice this afternoon directing Damania to retract the “false and defamatory” remarks and publicly apologise, failing which “appropriate” legal proceedings would be initiated.

Damania had begun a legal battle to expose corruption in irrigation projects after she lost a part of her 30-acre farm to the Kondhane dam in Konkan.

She told a news conference yesterday that the president of an Opposition party had refused to help her campaign citing his business relations with Sharad Pawar.

She desisted from naming the leader, saying she had no evidence of the meeting apart from a text message she had sent him later.

Although his name was not mentioned when news channels reported this, Gadkari on his own issued a denial saying he had never met Damania. She then named Gadkari as the leader she had allegedly met.

IAC officials claimed the alleged meeting took place at a time Damania’s attempts to collect documents from the water resources department, headed by Ajit Pawar’s protégé Sunil Tatkare, were being stonewalled.

“We were heartened that help came from an unexpected quarter.... (BJP MLA from Nagpur) Devendra Phadnavais and (BJP national secretary) Kirit Somaiya began demanding a probe into the irrigation scam,” an IAC spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the group then heard a “rumour” about a spiritual leader meeting Gadkari on the NCP’s behalf to ask him to have the matter dropped.

“Anjali, in her naivete, carried an idealistic impression of the RSS and firmly believed this was not possible. She decided to meet Gadkari, clarify the rumour and enlist his support.”

Later, a heartbroken Damania apparently sent the emotionally charged text message, saying her father was a committed RSS worker and that she had always held the organisation in high regard.

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