Leaders of the opposition Congress in Assam have accused Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for being intolerant against any criticism of his wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, who was embroiled in several controversies, including a PPE kit scam, purchasing of land bypassing laws and receiving Central government subsidy for her firm.
The Congress leaders alleged that whenever they raise Riniki Bhuyan’s corruption issue, the Chief Minister uses his anti-corruption wing to “harass” them. Himanta Biswa Sarma’s vigilance cell questioned Ranee Narah, a former Congress MP, about allegations of embezzlement of MPLAD funding in a 2017 case.
It has been claimed that money was misappropriated in the 2013–14 fiscal year for the installation of hand pumps in Jorhat district when Narah was a former union minister of state in the then Manmohan Singh government.
A complaint against Narah was filed in 2017 as a result of a report made to the Assam Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in response to a CAG report on the anomalies.
In the meantime, accusations of land grabbing were also made against the former MP from Lakhimpur and her spouse, Bharat Narah. The couple was charged with trespassing on public property when they started a tea farm under the name Ranee Narah.
Congress MLA Kamalakshya Dey Purkayastha was the subject of a recent investigation by the vigilance cell about his acquisition of a tea garden six months prior.
The MLA’s home constituency was visited by the vigilance branch officers, who questioned several associates of the legislator.
Purkayastha is the working president of the Congress in Assam in addition to being a three-time MLA from the Karimganj district. “The locals there requested that I purchase the tea garden earlier. But I did not have enough money to buy it. Later, I purchased the tea garden with some of my friends and associates for Rs. 3.20 crore. The land was bought with 100 percent white money. We have the details of every penny invested,” he told IANS earlier.
Purkayastha, who is an ardent critic of Himanta Biswa Sarma, alleged that he has been targeted for raising the land scam issue of the Chief Minister’s wife on the floors of the state assembly.
“You cannot say anything about the Chief Minister and his family’s corruption issue in Assam; otherwise, you will be targeted by the vigilance cell. This is nothing but an attempt to defame me in public.”
Speaking to reporters earlier, Ranee Narah said: “The vigilance cell called me in an old case. However, I responded to all of the queries of the investigating officers. I am satisfied with it, and I think they were satisfied with my replies, too.”
Talking to IANS, the opposition leader in the Assam assembly, Debabrata Saikia, said: “Our party leaders have been targeted recently. Some friends of state president Bhupen Borah were transferred recently. Some MLAs are being called for questioning. All of these started after the alleged corruption issue of the Chief Minister’s family was brought into the public domain.”
According to him, this was pure political vendetta. “The state government can launch a probe against any individual, but the timing of these inquiries is raising a lot of questions. As the central agencies are used by the BJP in the Centre, in Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma has been using the state government machinery to run a vicious campaign against the Congress leaders,” Saikia alleged.