Responding to charges that Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), which owned the newspaper The National Herald, has violated terms and conditions in using a piece of land in Bandra, the Congress has hit back, alleging that the Bharatiya Janata Party and several other political parties also utilise their properties for commercial use.
The Mumbai Congress undertook a march from Metro Cinema to Azad Maidan on Saturday to protest BJP's attack on the use of their Associated Journals Ltd property in Bandra
“The BJP has been using its office in Bhopal for generating revenue to support its office activities. There is nothing wrong in it. The Shiv Sena Bhavan too has shops in it. The Congress (AJL) too is within legal rights to commercialise a portion of the Bandra land,” said Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam.
Nirupam said that the BJP’s selective criticism smacked of political agenda in pursuing both the National Herald case and Mumbai’s land allotment. “It is premature to level allegations against us because the Bandra building has not even been completed. The BJP may inspect the building whenever it is built,” Nirupam told SUNDAY mid-day on Saturday.
The Mumbai Congress took out a march on Saturday from Metro Cinema to Azad Maidan to protest BJP’s political vendetta. Nirupam said the party would continue its fight against wild allegations levelled by the BJP. He said the BJP, too, has invested money in mutual funds and made efforts to save its official publications.
“Similarly, the Congress, too, saved its official mouthpiece by giving loan to the company which owned it,” he said. Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar, who raised the issue in the state legislative assembly on Friday, said that the allotment of plot should be withdrawn because of violation of rules. The land cannot be used for things other than the purpose for which it is leased out under a legal agreement.
“We want the government to reclaim the disputed land immediately from the company which is now constructing Congress Bhavan,” Shelar said. When contacted on Saturday, Shelar was busy in a public function and unable to talk.
The National Herald controversy has now extended to Mumbai in a full-fledged manner with a piece of land in Bandra which the Maharashtra government had allotted to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) in 1983 for building a Nehru memorial library and research centre.
The BJP has asked that for the scrapping of the allotment because the use of the land has been changed to occupy an 11-storey tower. The 3,478-sq-metre plot along the Western Express Highway was originally reserved for a hostel for scheduled caste students.
It was vacant for 30 years after which AJL sought the BMC’s permission to build a commercial complex there. The proposed library does not find a place in the revised plan which was moved in 2012. A year later, the BMC granted permission to start work.
Congress legislator and acclaimed architect Anant Gadgil said that there was no question of illegality if the revised proposal has BMC’s approval. “There are many proposals which have undergone changes with permission from the planning agencies like BMC. The BJP needs to educate itself on this,” he said.
When Congress leader had to return Andheri land
In February last year, a piece of prime Andheri land allotted to the education society associated with ex-union minister Rajeev Shukla, had courted a similar controversy following which the society had returned the land to the state government.
The BJP had accused the government of giving BAG Films Educational Society a 2,821-square-metre plot reserved for a municipal primary school, and another adjacent 3,534.70-square-metre plot reserved for a playground on ownership and lease in 2008 for a price much less than market rates.
It had alleged that the society would make profits by constructing a high-profile school. The then-chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had asked the state administration to scrap the deal. Chavan had issued orders to scrap allotment after BAG Films Education Society wrote to him saying it would surrender the land.
When the BJP alleged that the deal favoured the leader'’s family because the land rates applied were that of year 1976, Shukla had said that the land was allotted as per the policy under which many other education societies had availed of land under concessional rates.