Has BJP's Kirit Somaiya been throwing stones from a glass house?

Somaiya, known for filing complaints and addressing press conferences against Maha Vikas Aghadi leaders and their family members, has now been accused of two scams

Somaiya (left) leaving the EOW headquarters after appearing for inquiries on Monday.
Somaiya (left) leaving the EOW headquarters after appearing for inquiries on Monday.

Gautam S. Mengle / Mumbai

Recent developments surrounding senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya, where he has found himself at the receiving end of allegations instead of being the one making them, make one wonder if the pot, after years of calling the kettle black, is finally under the spotlight itself.

This month alone, Somaiya, known for filing complaints and addressing press conferences against Maha Vikas Aghadi leaders and their family members, has found himself accused of two scams. One of them pertains to the decommissioned INS Vikrant, while the other is in connection with construction of toilets through his family’s Non Government Organisation, the Yuvak Pratishthan.

On Monday, Somaiya appeared before the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) for inquiries in connection with the funds he allegedly collected to ‘save’ INS Vikrant, an Indian Navy aircraft carrier, from being decommissioned and scrapped. He reached the EOW headquarters, located in the Mumbai Police Commissionerate compound, at around 11 a.m. on Monday and left at around 2 p.m. He was on April 13 granted interim relief by the Bombay High Court.

The complainant, a former army man, had filed a complaint with the Trombay police station stating that Somaiya had started a donation drive in 2013 to save INS Vikrant, an Indian Navy aircraft carrier, from being decommissioned. During this drive, Somaiya and his son Neil had allegedly collected funds from across the city, including from the complainant. However, the warship was decommissioned and scrapped anyway and the complainant later learned from the Maharashtra Governor’s office that no money was received from Somaiya in 2013.

The complaint was subsequently transferred to the EOW, and the agency had issued summonses to Somaiya as well as Neil.

This case in particular has earned Somaiya a lot of flak, as it is a national issue as well as one that holds great sentimental value for the people of the country. More so, with the ‘nationalist’ and ‘patriotic’ stance that the BJP likes to flaunt at the drop of a hat, this comes as a great embarrassment.

“INS Vikrant is an issue that is very emotional for people. It is an emblem of the prowess of our Navy and the people must have generously donated at that time to ensure that INS Vikrant becomes a memorial for the great deeds of the Indian Navy. It is not just sad that the money was appropriated, it is sad that it was appropriated in this manner. The BJP, in the past also has been accused of making money out of the donations collected for the Ram Janmabhoomi. To play on people’s emotions to collect money is the most shameful thing to do, and if Somaiya has indeed usurped this money, then he should get the harshest punishment. He keeps demanding punishment for all scamsters, but he’s been perpetrating scams himself. It is such a hypocritical world,” said Preeti Sharma Menon, National Executive Member, Aam Aadmi Party.

Preeti Sharma Menon’s view was shared by Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Clyde Crasto, who lashed out at Somaiya without mincing any words.

“This is the same man who talks about having a truck full of evidence against this person and a bullock cart full of proof against that person. But has anything come out of a single one of his allegations so far? But when it was his own turn to face the law, he disappeared and only reappeared as if by magic as soon as the HC granted him interim relief. The minute he came back, he started talking about exposing another scam connected to the MVA government. Who gave him the right to collect money in the name of INS Vikrant in the first place? Even if one wants to collect donations for a temple in their lane, they need authorisation from the temple first. That money, whatever the amount might be, should have been returned to the people or, at the very least, handed over to the Indian Navy or the Defence ministry,” he said.

The second allegation against Somaiya was made by senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who told the media that he would soon be addressing Somaiya’s involvement in a “toilet scam”.

“Funds of the Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation were misused by Kirit Somaiya and his family. I have all the evidence and a case is being registered in this regard,” Raut had said.

Somaiya, meanwhile, wrote to the Maharashtra government, refuting all the allegations against him. In a three-page letter addressed to State Urban Development Department, Somaiya said that neither his wife Medha nor the Yuvak Pratishthan were involved in any such scam.

“The Yuvak Pratishthan too has not constructed any toilet without guidance of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) or the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). The concerned scheme was started on pilot basis in seven civic bodies in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and Yuvak Pratishthan is one of the NGOs that collaborated for its implementation. Medha Somaiya has done a PhD on Slum Rehabilitation and hence, her help was sought. It was not a private scheme, and all the decisions for its implementation were taken either by the state government or the concerned civic body,” Somaiya’s letter stated.

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Published: 18 Apr 2022, 4:08 PM