In a sensational development, a minister of state in Uttar Pradesh has pointedly accused his own cabinet minister of indulging in blatant bribery in his department.
Reyaz Ahmad, the minister of state for khadi and village industries, has shot off a letter to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, charging his own cabinet colleague Raja Ram Pande of taking bribe in transfer and posting of officials in the departments under the ministry.
Even as Pande sought to defend himself by claiming that he was following the transfer policy laid down by the state government, officials of the khadi and village industries department were ready to confirm the allegations leveled by Ahmad.
"The minister asked me to shell out Rsw 1 lakh if I wanted to continue at my existing position", confessed a middle-level officer, who does not wish to be named.
The minister on the other hand dismissed these allegations as "false". He said, "These allegations were being made as a part of some political conspiracy against me."
Pande, who is better known as a builder, owns many residential and commercial complexes and is also alleged to be involved in several other illegal activities.
Recently, Pande's close confidante Natwar Lal Goel, whom he had appointed as vice-chairman of the UP Khadi and Villages Board in the rank of a minister of state, was arrested for criminal activities. A commercial complex being built illegally by Goel was also pulled down by the Lucknow Development Authority.
Both Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav have been silent on the issue. However, the final call on Pande would be taken by Mulayam Singh Yadav. Political circles were agog with rumours about Pande pulling all strings to get the whole issue hushed up by silencing Reyaz Ahmad.
Meanwhile, Ahmad told mediapersons, "Whatever I wanted to say with regard to Raja Ram Pande I have stated in my letter to the chief minister; please keep me out of any controversy".