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EPF scam: New set of documents spell more trouble for Yogi govt

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DHFL

Lucknow, Nov 4 : The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) scam in Uttar Pradesh seems to be becoming the Achilles’ heel for the Yogi Adityanath government.

A fresh set of documents revealed that the decision to bring in controversial private firm Dewan Housing Finance Limited (DHFL), which is involved in the Rs 2,600 crore EPF scam, was taken after the Yogi government came into existence on March 19, 2017.

Earlier, Power Minister Shrikant Sharma had claimed that the decision to bring in DHFL to hold EPF funds was taken by the previous Akhgilesh Yadav-led government.

Referring to the FIR and minutes of the meeting of the UP State Power Sector Employees Trust, the leaders of UP Power Employees Joint Committee said that the decision to invest the hard-earned money of the employees in a shady company was taken on March 24, 2017, five days after Yogi Adityanath took oath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

Prominent power union leader Shailendra Dubey told IANS over phone that though he welcomeed the state government’s decision to initiate a CBI inquiry into the EPF scam, the Chief Minister should first remove higher officials of the Energy Ministry to ensure that files and documents relating to the DHFL issue remain intact.

“It is now clear that the decision was taken on March 24, 2017, during the Yogi government’s rule. We have seen the minutes of the meeting, where the present government authorised two trust officials to invest EPF money. As huge funds were transferred to DHFL between 2017 and 2018, the present set of officials should not remain in the Power Ministry,” said Dubey, Chairman, All India Power Engineers Federation.

In fact, UP government’s alleged dealing with DHFL has caused a stir in Lucknow. The FIR registered with the Lucknow Police revealed that state-owned UP Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) invested its employees’ funds worth over Rs 2,600 crore with DHFL, whose promoters were recently grilled by the Enforcement Directorate for their links with a front company of the late Iqbal Mirchi, a former aide of Dawood Ibrahim.

The decision to invest EPF money in a shady private company has been vociferously raised by the engineers and the employees’ unions. In a letter to the UPPCL Chairman, several employees’ unions have questioned the decision to invest money related to General Provident Fund (GPF) and Contributory Provident Fund (CPF) of employees with DHFL.

Facing opposition’s attack, particularly from Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, over the investment of the part of EPF in DHFL, the Uttar Pradesh government tried to set the record straight, asserting that the “dubious” decision was taken by the Akhilesh Yadav-led government in April 2014, and the process of investment was further carried forward during 2016.

The Yogi government, taking a swift decision, registered an FIR and arrested two senior officials, Praveen Kumar Gupta, the then Secretary of the UP State Power Employees Trust and UPPCL’s Provident Fund Trust, and UPPCL’s erstwhile Director (Finance) Sudhanshu Dwivedi.

On Sunday, Energy Minister Shrikant Sharma revealed to the media that the decision to bring in private players was taken during the Akhilesh government. He said the decision to invest in DHFL from March 2017 was taken by Gupta and Dwivedi without bringing the matter to the knowledge of the UPPCL Managing Director.

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BJP treads cautious, unleash ‘3 musketeers’ to check out Pilot’s claim

With Gehlot releasing photos, flashing victory sign and his camp claiming there were 107 MLAs, BJP thinks its caution paid off.

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Sachin Pilot

As Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Monday flexed muscles during the Congress Legislature Party meeting, throwing the show open to media claiming around 100 MLAs still in his fold, sources in the Bharatiya Janata Party claimed, they too took Sachin Pilot’s assertion of “more than 30 MLAs” support” with a pinch of salt.

This is why no top BJP leaders met Pilot and instead deputed three BJP intermediaries to “keep a close watch” on the developments. Sources say, the three leaders are BJP General Secretary Bhupender Yadav, Pilots”s former colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia and BJP MP Om Mathur.

While BJP officially maintains that there has been no meeting between BJP leaders and Pilot and sources in BJP claim nor any have been scheduled, Yadav”s role is believed to keep BJP top brass “apprised” of the “developing situation”.

The choice of Yadav may surprise some, given he is incharge of Bihar and Gujarat. However, he hails from the desert state and knows the state”s politics very well.

The second choice was obvious — Jyotiraditya Scindia. While there has been no official confirmation of a meeting between him and Pilot, sources confirmed to IANS that the two had a detailed telephone conversation on Sunday, even as the sulking Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister remained “incommunicado” for the best part of the day to his party colleagues.

Sources who could not confirm what the two leaders — Pilot and Scindia — spoke about, added, “The two have worked together for years. But ever since Scindia joined the BJP along with his supporters, both Pilot and Scindia have been in regular telephonic contact.”

Late on Sunday, after they spoke over phone, Pilot asserted that he will skip Sunday morning”s legislature party meeting and openly announced that the Ashok Gehlot-led government in the state has been reduced to a minority government.

The third BJP leader who was entrusted with the job of “getting a sense” of things in the Gehlot-Pilot face-off, was BJP”s National Vice President and Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan — Om Mathur. Sources indicate that Pilot and Mathur met on Sunday. However, there has been no official confirmation of the same.

Mathur, who on Sunday attacked Congress leader Kapil Sibal saying it”s natural for anyone to look for greener pastures, without naming Pilot, tried to distance BJP from the Rajasthan political crisis on Monday morning. Mathur said: “It is unfair for the Congress party to blame its internal problems on the BJP. The Congress should rather keep its house in order.”

Senior BJP sources say, the party top brass were skeptical of the claim of more than 30 MLAs supporting Pilot. In fact, the job of the three BJP leaders was to get a sense of the authenticity of the claim. If BJP sources are to be believed, the party top brass decided against meeting Pilot unless convinced that he indeed has the numbers on his side.

With Gehlot releasing photos, flashing victory sign and his camp claiming there were 107 MLAs, BJP thinks its caution paid off.

With just 18 MLAs staying off the CLP meeting, Congress seems to have decided not to negotiate any further while BJP distanced itself from the political row. Reports of Priyanka Gandhi pitching in to find a middle path was also reported. With Pilot still dodging camera and microphones, the picture is yet to become clear.

(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])

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GenNext leaders leaving party worrying sign for Congress

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PILOT and SCINDIA

New Delhi, July 13 : After Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot may be the next high-profile leader to leave the Congress unceremoniously at a time when the party is grappling to save its image and the government in Rajasthan, even as Congress observer Randeep Surjewala made a high-pitch appeal to Pilot to return to the party fold.

According to sources, Congress leaders have been asked to go soft on Pilot as the party wants to retain him.

Former Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam said, “The party doesn”t suffer if a person leaves, but if one by one everybody starts to leave, who will remain in the party? The prime responsibility of the party leadership is to resolve the differences between the leaders.”

Not just Scindia, who led a successful revolt against Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh in Madhya Pradesh by jumping ship to the BJP, now Pilot too seems to be mounting pressure on Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

Before Pilot, former Haryana Pradesh Congress chief Ashok Tanwar had announced his resignation from the party in October last year after being denied ticket in the Assembly polls. He even protested against the party at 10, Janpath but his grievances were not heard.

Tanwar, who was the party President in Haryana, was removed after pressure from former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Talking on the current crisis in the party, Tanwar said senior leaders don”t want young leaders to grow and sabotage their endeavours.

Tanwar, who is yet to join any party, said his political journey is on and he will take a decision at an appropriate time.

Scindia”s revolt led to the fall of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh. After being sidelined by Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh and with the party high command not paying heed to his demands, Scindia joined hands with the BJP and is now an elected Rajya Sabha MP of the party. Chances are that he may soon be inducted into the Union Cabinet.

What”s common between Tanwar, Scindia and Pilot is that they have all been close to Rahul Gandhi. While Tanwar and Pilot were made state Presidents, the latter lost the CM”s race against Gehlot. Similarly, Scindia lost the race for the Chief Minister”s post to Kamal Nath.

There are worrying signs in the Congress, especially after former Union Minister Kapil Sibal said that he was worried for the party.

While senior party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi hoped that an amicable solution will be reached soon, nothing of that sort has happened so far. Pilot seems to be adamant and the trigger for his revolt seems to have come after the SOG sent a notice to Pilot in a sedition case.

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Rajasthan crisis: The story of a nose-diving Pilot and soaring Gehlot!

Pilot stood like a wall between Gehlot and his men and hence, it was expected that he will be shunted out as Rajasthan PCC chief.

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PILOT and SCINDIA

Jaipur, July 12 : The greed of Ashok Gehlot to keep his power intact and the hunger of Sachin Pilot to stay strong in the larger picture is the reason for the tussle which triggered the Congress crisis in Rajasthan.

Since the Congress party formed its government in Rajasthan, there were two power circles created, one being led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and other by Sachin Pilot.

While Congress stands at 101, the BJP and its alliance with RLD had 75 MLAs. Looking at the thin strength, Gehlot played his magic and brought 13 independents under his fold. Later, 6 BSP MLAs merged with Congress.

Surprisingly, Pilot, despite being PCC chief, was kept out and was informed about the developments the next day via the media. This was just the beginning. The files of his department (PWD) were sent back by Finance (under Gehlot) quoting reasons for fund crisis.

Even the ministers of his camp were facing challenges and were receiving back files from bureaucrats quoting “Please Discuss”.

During the Covid crisis, Gehlot was busy calling video conferences with health and other departments, however, Pilot was never part of the meetings.

Pilot camp sources said that the Deputy CM wanted the entire Congress team on ground, however, Gehlot was more interested in making his larger picture and hence centralised the operations during corona.

Even on his father Rajesh Pilot”s death anniversary on June 11, when Pilot and team was about to go to Dausa to pay floral tributes, the police officials called Pilot and asked him to stay away from visiting Dausa as section 144 was imposed in the town in the wake of covid-19.

“They were busy holding meetings, camping in Marriott to prevent MLA poaching, but Pilot was intentionally stopped from visiting Dausa as it could have been his show of strength as many MLAs wanted to visit there,” said an MLA from Pilot”s team. Even the home department is looked after by Gehlot.

Further, the challenge started appearing grave when Pilot wanted Congress grassroots workers to get tickets for ensuing panchayat and corporation polls while Gehlot wanted to favour his closest. Also for political appointments, the CM wanted the BSP and independent MLAs to get plum posts while Pilot wanted them to be kept for Congress workers.

Pilot stood like a wall between Gehlot and his men and hence, it was expected that he will be shunted out as Rajasthan PCC chief.

“However, Pilot wanted to continue his term as PCC chief but was not interested in reading files as minister. The deadlock continued and when he was defamed many times by Gehlot camp in one or the other way, he then decided to bring in the high command into the picture and show his strength and that”s why this is happening now,” said a source.

It”s more like a door-die situation for Pilot but hopefully the Congress high command wakes up from its slumber said a PCC worker who told IANS that the party seems to be crumbling in the state with the deadlock. “We look dead and if things don”t improve, our party will be declared dead.”

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