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Goa Crime Branch begins probe into Louis Berger bribery

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Manohar Parrikar

 

Panaji: The Goa Police Crime Branch on Monday started its probe into the $976,630 international bribery scandal involving New Jersey-based consultancy firm Louis Berger, Congress politicians and officials.

The ruling BJP in Goa sought blacklisting of the firm, while the Congress demanded questioning of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar by investigators for his utterances about the scandal.

On a day of hectic developments, state Bharatiya Janata Party president Vinay Tendulkar said a party delegation would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh to formally demand a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the bribery scandal.

An activist also filed a complaint with the central probe agency, alleging that more Goa ministers and officials were bribed by the consultancy firm in connection with two other projects.

“I have spoken to the director general of police and asked him to direct the Crime Branch to conduct the initial probe on the basis of which we will approach the CBI,” Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said.

Director General of Police T.N. Mohan told reporters a Crime Branch team was formed and documents related to the bribe would be obtained soon.

Top officials of Louis Berger have already pleaded guilty to offering bribes to the tune of $3.9 million to secure contracts in Asian countries like India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Kuwait.

While the settlement announced by the US Justice Department did not identify the politicians and officials who were offered bribes, the documents revealed that the amount of $976,630 in bribes was paid during 2009-2010 to a Goa minister and other officials.

Former Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat and former Public Works Department minister Churchill Alemao could also come into the ambit of the bribery investigation, sources said. Both Kamat and Alemao have denied the allegation.

Louis Berger was part of a consortium that eventually won a contract to execute a water and sewerage project in Goa.

The BJP, which has been at the receiving end over the last few days over a string of maladministration and graft cases, on Monday turned the heat on the Congress over the bribery scandal.

“Goa has been defamed internationally because of this bribery scam. BJP MPs from Goa will not only raise this issue in parliament, but we will also meet the prime minister and home minister to demand a CBI probe,” Tendulkar said.

Asked whether the BJP in Goa would seek blacklisting of Louis Berger, which is also linked to two other projects funded by the state government, Tendulkar said: “Yes. We will.”

While the BJP announced its intention to file a complaint with the CBI, Kashinath Shetye, a Right to Information (RTI) activist, on Monday filed a complaint with the agency demanding a probe into three projects secured by the consultancy firm in the state.

The Congress, meanwhile, in an attempt to brazen it out, dared the BJP to launch a CBI probe.

“Let the probe happen. We are not scared of anything,” Congress spokesperson Aleixo Reginaldo said, and demanded that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar should be questioned because of utterances made by him at a party meeting in Goa on Sunday.

“The defence minister said he knows the bungalow in which the scam deal was struck. The investigating agency should first question him about it,” Reginaldo said.

(IANS)

 

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Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Intact

JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient

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Nitish Kumar with Narendra Modi.
Nitish Kumar with Narendra Modi.

By Sagarneel Sinha

There have been lots of discussions among the political circles that JDU led by Bihar Chief
Minister Nitish Kumar is upset with the BJP and trying to send signals to erst allies — RJD and the Congress. This led to speculations that Nitish may once again join the Grand Alliance (GA) leaving the NDA camp. Already, RJD’s new commander Tejasvi Yadav has clearly stated that Nitish led JDU will not be welcomed in the GA. Despite all the odds, if (suppose) GA partners accommodate Nitish, he wouldn’t be the driving force of the alliance as in 2015. Also, Nitish cannot afford to go alone like in 2014 when his party fetched only 2 seats!

Then which is the correct way for JDU? It is to go with the BJP in the upcoming 2019 polls.
JDU’s advantage in this case is the present situation of the BJP. Currently, the saffron party is not in a strong position as the party would be facing anti-incumbency from a strong RJD led alliance in the state. BJP’s traditional voters are the upper castes who account for 17% of the electorate. This votebank is not enough for the party to help to win elections. The main opposition party — RJD still commands over a larger votebank than BJP. RJD is still a dominant force among the Yadavs and the Muslims who account for 31% of the population. It means BJP has to minus the 31% votes and rely on the rest — 69%. Out of these, 16% are the Mahadalits — a large portion of whom generally hail Nitish Kumar as their leader. Also, there are Kurmis, an OBC group consisting of 4% votes — considered as the supporters of JDU. Nitish Kumar himself is also a Kurmi.

Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar
Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar.

JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient. However, if these votebanks are joined together they form around 31-32%. Plus, to gain the extra votes, both the parties have the option to rely on the personal charisma of Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, there is a power tussle between the two allies to get a respectable share of seats.

This power tussle is because of a strong BJP which earlier used to be a junior ally. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections changed the political scenario of the state where BJP emerged as the largest party in terms of vote share and seats. JDU knows the reality of a new emerging BJP, though it is pushing hard to gain a respectable share of seats for the Lok Sabha elections. Instead, Nitish Kumar has another option — giving the bigger chunk to the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections and the latter playing the junior partner for the 2020 assembly elections if held timely. Given the current situation in the country, in a crucial state like Bihar, BJP can hardly reject JDU as the later still commands over 15-16% votes — a very crucial votebank for winning maximum seats in the 2019 polls. Importance of JDU can also be explained by BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Patna to have breakfast and dinner with Nitish Kumar. Though in politics there are no permanent friends or foes, so any perfect prediction is impossible. But given the current situation, JDU and BJP parting their ways seems unlikely as both the parties are in need of each other as already highlighted by Amit Shah that the two allies would fight the Lok Sabha elections together. Smiling face of Nitish Kumar was also an indication that the meetings with Amit Shah were fine.