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January 17, 1998


The Rediff Election Interview/Banwarilal Purohit

'Is fighting corruption indiscipline?'

Banwarilal Purohit returned from Delhi just that morning, after announcing his decision to quit the Bharatiya Janata Party, with whose leadership he had having a running battle on the issue of the Bhadravati Mines lease handed out by the Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra to the Ispat Group.

Purohit has charged that large scale corruption was involved as virgin coal fields with resources of over Rs 250 billion has been sought to be leased to the Bhadravati Power Project in Chandrapur, for a song. "It is the largest scam in independent India,'' he has alleged. He further named Pramod Mahajan, BJP general secretary and defence minister in the 13-day BJP government of May 1996, for pushing the deal and also for pressurising the defence establishment to permit the exploitation of the mines in the proximity of the ordnance factory in Bhadravati, overlooking security considerations.

Purohit was in an obviously disturbed mood as he prepared to move to his office at Hitvada, the English newspaper from Nagpur (established 1911). Excerpts from an exclusive interview with V Ram.

Several BJP leaders have said you are leaving the BJP because you were denied a ticket for the election.

That is only one of the reasons. I have been asking the BJP leadership why they are not giving me the ticket. I have received no clear reply from anybody. Vaguely, I was told the reason was indiscipline. I was only fighting against corruption. Is that indiscipline?

Was there any coterie working against you in the BJP?

Yes. It is clear that the trio -- Pramod Mahajan, Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari -- was working against me since my campaign was hurting their interests.

Were you not able to get the top BJP leadership to intervene in your favour if you felt wronged by the three you have named?

They tried, but they could not help me. They asked me to withdraw the Public Interest Ligitation petition I had filed in the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court, but I refused.

How do you propose to get to the root of the corruption that you allege took place?

The high court has already given a stay against handing over the mines on lease. Mahajan himself exerted pressure on the defence personnel for overlooking objections (when he was defence minister) and the notings are all on file. I am seeking a CBI probe, through the court.

What is your major contribution to the development of Nagpur?

I have been totally involved in the development of Nagpur. For two decades I have represented the people of Nagpur, twice as MLA and three times as member of Parliament. I brought to Nagpur, several central institutions such as the Cotton Research Centre, the Aluminium Research Centre, the Citrus Research Centre. I have fought for the slumdwellers here and want that they should get proper pattas (titles for the land).

Ask around, you would know how popular I am with the people of Nagpur -- be they rickshawallas, or ordinary people from all walks of life.

What is your vision for Vidarbha?

I am in the forefront of the separate Vidarbha movement. Only then can this region make tremendous progress. Mining can be done by the state, plus there is the forest wealth to be exploited.

Will you consider joining the BJP at some later date?


The local minister, Nitin Gadkari has said you do not co-operate in development projects in Nagpur.

If a cement road is being built across my house and I know there is corruption involved, naturally I am going to question it. But how is that non-co-operation?

Gadkari, at a press conference, challenged you to contest against the BJP candidate. Would you be doing so?

I have just returned after quitting the BJP. I will decide my move after consulting my friends and wellwishers. I have not taken any decision yet.

Are you likely to approach the Congress for a ticket for the election?

Nothing has been decided as yet.

The Rediff Election Interviews

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