AAP levels graft charges against Maharashtra minister

Mumbai: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today alleged a Rs 525-crore scam in Jalna Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) under the chairmanship of Maharashtra Minister Arjun Khotkar, who rejected the charge.

Addressing a press conference here, AAP national spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon accused the Shiv Sena leader of “looting” Jalna APMC and treating it like his fiefdom.

As Chairman of the APMC since the last nine years, Khotkar ran the committee like his private empire and made huge profits illegally, she said and demanded his ouster from the Council of Ministers, where he was inducted last month.

Menon alleged there was a scam of Rs 525 crore in the APMC, where ‘galas’ (shops) were sold, leased and sub-leased illegally.

She said galas were sold with inflated price and alleged nepotism in their ownership.

“Out of 1,500 galas, 250 are illegally owned by Khotkar’s 40 relatives and his business partners in the two markets of APMC.”

“The real value of the galas comes to around Rs 600 crore, but only Rs 75 crore went to the APMC and the rest Rs 525 crore was pocketed by Khotkar and his cronies,” the AAP leader said.

Menon said figures and information provided by her were based on replies received from authorities concerned in response to RTI applications filed by her.

Showing a few purported sting operations to the media persons, she claimed the entire APMC market, where farm commodities were sold by traders, was riddled with corruption.

She said, “flouting all rules, the galas are used to stock and sell non-agricultural items like steel, pipes, furniture, automobiles, textiles.”

The APMC market in Purana Monda area, which is called Arjun Khotkar Business Centre (AKBC), boasts of a string of textile showrooms, the AAP leader said.

Besides the financial scam, APMC also violated audit norms, she said.

“Annual audit reports are replete with remarks about malpractices and misappropriations but no corrective action has been taken,” Menon said.

The AAP spokesperson asked Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to sack Khotkar and said she will file a case against him with Anti-Corruption Bureau and also write to the Chief Justice of India.

Khotkar, a four-time Sena MLA from Jalna in North Maharashtra, termed the allegations as completely baseless and politically motivated, and said “rules and regulations were strictly followed while carrying out business of the APMC”.

The Minister of State for Textile, Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries claimed Menon’s allegations were based on incomplete information and said he will address a press meet tomorrow and reply to her charges.