Even as Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel battles internal dissension in the Congress state unit, senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party have launched a sharp attack on him over a news report saying his government is acquiring a private college that belongs to his relatives. The CM though has taken on the criticism and promised transparency.
Among others, the opposition party’s national IT cell chief Amit Malviya tweeted a report by a national daily saying the Chhattisgarh government will take over a financially strapped medical college in Durg that is owned by the in-laws of Baghel’s daughter.
“Classic case of using public money for private gains,” the BJP leader added.
The institute in question is the Chandulal Chandrakar Memorial Medical College (CCMMC). Chandrakar was a senior Congress leader who served as a five-time MP and union minister. He died in 1995.
According to the government’s draft bill, the report says, the college is in “financial distress" and the acquisition is being done in public interest.
Baghel’s daughter Divya is married to Kshitij Chandrakar, whose father Vijay Chandrakar is the younger brother of Mangaldas Chandrakar, the director of the CCMMC. And this has made a section of bureaucrats uncomfortable, sources say, and given the opposition BJP ammunition against the Congress government.
Among other things, the college reportedly has no official recognition since 2017 and is laden with a debt of Rs 125 crore.
Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia who faced “sold-out" jibes from Baghel after switching from the Congress to the BJP last year, hit back at the Chhattisgarh chief minister, saying that the case has shown who is bikau (sold-out) and who is tikau (durable).
BJP MP Rajyavardhan Rathore also took to Twitter to take aim at the CM, saying, “Family profit at the behest of public interest.”
Union minister for commerce and industry Piyush Goyal too hit out at Baghel on the microblogging site, as he wrote, “Acquisition of a loss-making private college is sheer deceit and misuse of public funds.” The hard-earned money is not meant for corruption but for the progress of the state, he said.
It was state minister Ravindra Chaubey who had replied to the charges on Tuesday, saying that the decision isn’t benefiting Baghel’s relatives but the public and students. A medical college needs an investment of Rs 500 crore and what is wrong if it is being acquired at half the cost by the government, he argued.
As the BJP mounted further attacks, Baghel himself took on the responsibility of replying to the criticism. “This controversy has been triggered by the height of imagination, and I challenge this. If there is a question of public interest, the state government will also buy a private medical college and Nagarnar plant. We are pro-public sector and are not selling public properties like them (the BJP),” he said on Twitter.
“As far as kinship and vested interests are concerned I want to tell the people of my state that I am responsible to the public and do things with utmost transparency and there will always be transparency in this government. Once the deal is done, everything will be clear," he added, maintaining that it’s only an attempt to save a medical college and protect the future of the students.
State Congress spokesperson RP Singh also hit back at the BJP, saying the Narendra Modi government at the Centre has put up public sector companies on sale, while the Chhattisgarh government is acquiring a private college for the benefit of the public and that is why the opposition party is experiencing distress.