Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demanded a probe into allegations of dubious funding of companies run by Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari.
In his communication, Digvijay Singh urged the prime minister to ask the ministry of corporate afairs to institute an inquiry by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office into the matter, saying that, "a prima facie case does exist".
He was referring to reports related to the association of BJP chief with a Nagpur-based company Purti Power and Sugar Limited, regarding which "irregularities" have come to the fore.
"Gadkari has also said that he is open to a free and fair investigation. Being the national president of the BJP, it is in the fitness of things that his case is properly investigated and he gets a fair opportunity to prove his innocence and clear his name," Singh said.
This is the first time that a Congress leader has demanded a probe into the issue.
The party has so far maintained that there should not be any politics on the private business of individuals and unless some investigating agency stumbles upon an irregularity, there is no need for the Congress to target the BJP chief.
Singh has also attached with the letter a report compiled from information taken from the official site of the ministry of corporate affairs and said that findings of a TV investigation as well as this report make "some very pertinent points that requires serious attention."
In his letter, Singh, a known detractor of Gadkari, said that it is believed that the BJP chief had acquired Purti Sugar Mill, which had shut down.
Complimenting NDTV for the "exhaustive investigation" carried out by it on PPSL, he said certain points require serious attention.
"The companies that bought equity in PPSL appear to be defunct companies which had not done business for a long time. Out of nowhere these companies got the capital to buy equity in PPSL, most likely from another layer of shell companies. Most of these companies have given bogus addresses. It is also interesting that all the companies have used a single email ID that is firstname.lastname@example.org," he said.
Singh mentioned in the letter that four names are common to the list of board of directors of all the 18 companies.
Gadkari had recently filed a defamation suit against the Congress general secretary.
At the All India Congress Committee briefing, party spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit merely said that it was for the government to decide about probing the issue when asked whether the party endorses the demand made by Singh.
At the same time, he sought to insist that the allegations of corruption against Gadkari were "qualitatively different" than those faced by Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, when asked about the two episodes.
"The cases of Gadkari and Vadra are different. After the statement of the Haryana government and DLF, it is clear that no favour has been done to him. This issue is only political. Since somebody has made money, he should not be targetted only because he is related to somebody. We are also saying on the Gadkari issue that let the government agencies first examine the issue and if something comes out and the allegations turn out to be true, then we will see it," Dikshit said.
On BJP Member of Parliament Ram Jethmalani asking Gadkari not to seek a second term in office in the wake of allegations of corruption against him, the Congress spokesman said it was the BJP's internal issue.
"It is for the BJP to decide what kind of president they would like," he said.
Replying to questions on why the Congress was soft-pedalling the issue of Gadkari, Dikshit said, "There is no issue of compromise. Institutions will do their job. If certain facts come out, political parties will respond. Every business deal of a private individual is not a political issue."
Asked about Digvijay's letter to the prime minister on the issue, Dikshit said that since a letter has been sent, "let the prime minister take a decision on it".
Later, addressing reporters in Guna in Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay Singh claimed Arvind Kejriwal knew all these things against Gadkari but only "made general allegations" against the BJP chief.
He also said that Jethmalani's only agenda is to "keep alive" Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's name in the race for prime ministership.
"It was because of this that Jethmalani can ask for Gadkari's resignation although this is the internal matter of BJP," Singh said.