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From Engineer to MD of UPPCL, Is AP Mishra A Scam Kingpin or A Pawn In A Political Chess Game?

Mishra was arrested after it was learnt that over Rs 4,100 crore of retirement funds of the power corporation were allegedly invested in the defunct Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Limited since 2017.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:November 5, 2019, 11:56 PM IST
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From Engineer to MD of UPPCL, Is AP Mishra A Scam Kingpin or A Pawn In A Political Chess Game?
Image for representation.

Lucknow: Authorities on Tuesday arrested former managing director of Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL) AP Mishra in connection with an alleged Rs 4,000-crore scam that has set off a political fracas in the state.

However, some observers are sceptical about whether “AP”, who during his tenure was also referred to as “Arabpati”, meaning a billionaire, is really the mastermind of a massive financial fraud or just a pawn in a chess game between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its rivals.

More than Rs 4,100 crore of retirement funds of UPPCL was allegedly invested in the embattled Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Limited (DHFL) since 2017, of which only about Rs 1,800 crore has been recovered so far.

According to reports, UPPCL Contributory Provident Fund Trust decided to overlook other financial players and chose to strike a deal with DHFL.

Owners of DHFL are being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) over charges of terror funding linked to Iqbal Mirchi, a close associate of underworld kingpin Dawood Ibrahim. The company’s future is under a cloud as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has imposed several restrictions on withdrawal of funds from its accounts. This has raised serious concerns about safety of deposits from UPPCL.

As the scam erupted in the public domain a few days back, it soon turned into ammunition for opposition parties to target the Yogi Adityananth government and BJP. First to take up the issue was Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, followed by Samajwadi party president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

The state government was quick to respond with swift orders of FIRs and subsequent back to back arrests. The first to be apprehended the-then director (finance) of UPPCL and also member of the trust, Sudhanshu Dwivedi, and PK Gupta, general manager of UPPCL and secretary of the trust.

The government also recommended a CBI probe into the matter, a request that needs approval from the Centre.

The trust was headed by senior IAS officer Sanjay Agarwal who was also the chairman of UPPCL. A crucial meet of the trust took place on March 14, 2017 that was attended by all the five trust members including the three arrested, Agarwal and one SP Pandey who was also a director with UPPCL at the time.

The agenda of this meeting, accessed by News18, shows that one of the key issues before the trust board was to ratify and adopt a March 2015 decision of investing the surplus amount from the employees’ provident fund (PF) trust into financial firms of star ratings. Though it doesn’t directly mention any particular company of choice, it opens the way for funding. How DHFL subsequently became the pick remains a key question in the investigation.

The meeting of the trust was held just a couple of days after the UP assembly election results came out, and it was clear that the BJP was going to form the government. Finally, on March 19, Yogi Adityanath took oath as chief minister in what was seen as a surprise move by the party.

“The haste in conduct of the trust’s affairs is in itself proof that there was a certain agenda which Mishra and others wanted to fulfill before the new government assumed office,” BJP spokesperson Dr Chandra Mohan said. “The manner in which former CM Akhilesh Yadav always patronised AP Mishra gives a lot of reasons to question the intent of those previously in power.”

Taking a jibe at Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, the BJP spokesperson also said, “It seems that by falsely accusing the BJP and Yogi government of the scam, Priyanka Gandhi was actually trying to save Akhilesh Yadav. There is clear partnership between the Congress and Samajwadi party when it comes to scams.”

The man under the scanner, whose arrest is now being projected as a big breakthrough by the state government had joined the power corporation as an assistant engineer in 1976. Over the years, he was posted at important centres like Lucknow, Kanpur, Noida and Allahabad (now Prayagraj). A man skilled networking, sources say, Mishra excelled at keeping political masters in good humour.

According to BJP leaders, Mishra’s proximity to the SP’s top leadership saw his career graph soar when the party was in power. In 2014, he was appointed the managing director of UPPCL, a post that was previously held by an IAS officer. From then, till the time Yogi Adityanath government came to power in 2017, Mishra kept getting extensions post his retirement. This only added to his clout.

He also wrote a book on Akhilesh Yadav, which was unveiled by the-then CM himself. Though Mishra was never directly accused in any case of corruption or financial mismanagement, allegations of favoritism and talks of corrupt practices especially in tender allocations were loud in the power corridors.

Mishra resigned a few months after the BJP came to power. Since then he was living a retired life. Only now he has suddenly come back into focus. Just hours after his arrest, Akhilesh Yadav held a press conference. Though he didn’t directly take AP Mishra’s name, the SP leader raised questions about ongoing investigations by the UP police. “Yogi government is trying to cover up the truth,” he said. “The probe is a farce. Nothing less than a probe by a sitting judge of either high court or Supreme Court can bring out the truth of the scam.” Akhilesh also alleged that the power minister and chief minister were directly responsible for the scam.

Replying to accusations by the ruling party, Congress national spokesperson and media in-charge for UP Rajiv Tyagi said, “BJP is nervous because its leaders are directly involved in the scam. It was our party and leader Priyanka Gandhi who first took up the matter. BJP is afraid of Priyanka and hence is making absurd allegations against her.”

Meanwhile, those fighting on the ground for the affected power corporation employees say they are not fully satisfied with the probe. Shailendra Dubey, convener of the power employees’ joint action committee, said, “The trust was headed by a senior IAS officer who was also the chairman of the UPPCL. Why has he not been questioned so far?” He also added that out of more than Rs 4,100 crore, around Rs 3,500 crore was invested during the tenure of the present chairman and MD of the corporation.

“Therefore, we demand that officers under whom maximum amount of investments took place should be removed from office,” Dubey said. “Only then an independent and honest probe can take place.”

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