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Nitin Gadkari at the centre of a storm over yacht ride abroad

By EMN Updated: Feb 27, 2015 10:51 pm

New Delhi, FEBRUARY 27

Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari was today at the centre of a controversy over reports that he and his family spent two nights on a luxury yacht owned by Essar group in the waters of French Riviera in July, 2013 on which a PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court.
Political rivals used the opportunity to attack the minister and his party while Gadkari denied any wrong doing saying he has not taken money from any corporate in his life.He admitted he had taken a chopper ride from French city Nice to Riviera waterfront for the yacht cruise during a trip he had made in 2013 when he said he was not a minister, MP or MLA and he had paid for the entire trip from his “family account”.
The controversy erupted out of a ‘whistle blower’ deciding to go public with internal company communications of Essar Group, which he claimed, showed how the corporate cultivated individuals in positions of power and influence, showering gifts and favours to push its interests.
Noted Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, whose NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) filed a PIL in the Supreme Court on the issue today, said it concerns the “well-oiled mechanism” of Essar corporate with which it “compromises” top ministers, bureaucrats, politicians, MLAs and media personnel.
“Big luxury yachts are used by the Essar to entertain families of big politicians like Nitin Gadkari,” he said.
Bhushan said they have demanded an independent inquiry into the whole issue as it was a very sensitive matter because big corporates can compromise the system of the nation through leak of documents and other things.
He alleged that ESSAR gives smart phones to politicians, maintains their monthly recharge and scholarships are given on VIP references.
Gadkari, who had stepped down as BJP President at the time of the cruise, today said he and his entire family had gone on a vacation to Norway paying from out of the “family account” and asserted that in his life he had never taken money from any corporates.
He said when it was known that he was going to Norway Essar people told him that they have a yacht in the sea off France.
“I had not seen the yacht. They said come and see the yacht once. I landed at Frankfurt, paid for my ticket, stayed at my hotel and went to the yacht,” he said.
“When I went on the trip I was not an MP, MLA or a Minister. I went with family paying out of family account. I have not taken anybody’s ticket, lodging, boarding or for food and drinks. I have never taken any money from private corporates,” he said adding he has a penchant for seeing things new.
Gadkari tried to laugh off the issue when he answered a question about taking a chopper ride from Essar from Nice city to the waster front in French Riviera.
“I can’t go there swimming,” he said but admitted that was a helicopter that belonged to Ruia (of Essar) and he got an invitation from them to see the yacht.
When plied with more questions and whether his action would not be in conflict with decisions to be taken by him, he said he was not holding office.
“I have answered your questions. I have nothing more to add,” he said winding up his press conference.
When asked for comments, Essar spokesman said, “we are a law-abiding company and responsible corporate citizen and have not indulged in any wrong doing. The newspaper, article and media news are based on information that is stolen or fabricated.
“We have initiated legal action and a complaint has been filed against the suspected individuals responsible for the act of thieving and fabricating documents from a private corporate organisation which is as much an offence as theft from government department.
“Possession thereof constitutes receiving and dealing with stolen information which is punishable offence.
The inferences being drawn from the information being published are completely false and incorrect,” Essar said.

By EMN Updated: Feb 27, 2015 10:51:04 pm