Lucknow: Two opposition parties of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday accused the Ram Mandir Trust set up by the centre last year of pulling off an illicit land deal in Ayodhya.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) claim the transaction took place in March this year. It involved two real estate dealers allegedly purchasing a property from an individual for ₹ 2 crore and selling it — minutes later — to the Trust for ₹ 18.5 crore, according to the allegation. The temple body has brushed the charge aside as frivolous.
The allegations are significant as the Ram temple in Ayodhya is an emotive issue in Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due next year.
The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra is a Trust that was set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in February 2020 to oversee and manage the construction of the temple based on a Supreme Court verdict. It was awarded around 70 acres of land in the ruling and 12 of its 15 members are nominated by the centre.
Former Samajwadi Party MLA and Uttar Pradesh minister Pawan Pandey on Sunday held a press conference in Ayodhya alleging that the fraudulent land deal had taken place with the connivance of local BJP leaders and some Trust members.
He showed some documents that allegedly prove that a property located next to the Ram Janmabhoomi site was traded at a multi-fold markup. The documents were allegedly the stamp duty papers of both transactions and had common ‘witnesses’ — the Mayor of Ayodhya and a local who is a member of the Trust — according to Mr Pandey.
“What gold did this property throw up that its price went from ₹ 2 crores to ₹ 18 crores-plus in a matter of minutes? This means loot to the tune of ₹ 16.5 crores has taken place. There should be a CBI enquiry,” the SP leader said.
“Crores of people gave donations to the Ram Temple Trust. They dug into their savings to donate. If this is what you do to their money, then this is an insult to the 120 crore people of the country,” Mr Pandey said.
Similar allegations were made at a separate press conference by AAP leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh.
“No one can even imagine there will be corruption in the name of Lord Ram. But these documents show that crores of rupees have been embezzled,” Mr Singh said.
The Trust, however, dismissed the allegations.
“All kinds of allegations have been made for over a century. Some also blamed us for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. We do not worry about such allegations. You should not either,” said Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Champat Rai, who is also Secretary of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra.
When asked if he would comment on the allegations, Mr Rai snapped back saying: “No. We will study it.”
In a late night statement on Twitter, Mr Rai said the allegations were “influenced by politics and misguided”.
He claimed the original buyers of the property had entered into an agreement with the owners years ago for the price applicable at that time. In March, they formalized it at the same rate, and then sold the property to the temple trust at the current market price.
Only, it is not explained how the difference between the two transactions, carried out within minutes, was a staggering ₹ 16.5 crore.
Mr Rai also said it was important to acquire some properties adjacent to the east and west side of the Ram Temple complex “to create easy access for pilgrims”.
He underlined the Uttar Pradesh government has also been acquiring land in Ayodhya for development work, and so property prices have gone up in the town. The “particular property in question is located at a very prominent spot close to the Ayodhya railway station,” as per the statement.
He claimed that all transactions by the temple trust are online and transparent and done with prior approval between both parties.