The Housing and Urban Development Minister, Moulvi Ifitkar Hussain Ansari, had been indicted in a corruption case by none else than the State's own Crime Branch during an inquiry into a scam pertaining to the development of proposed Sidhra township. The inquiry report was released by the State Government on Saturday last, amidst reports that Ansari has defied the Chief Minister's directive to resign from cabinet in view of the corruption charges against him.
It has not been the first time that corruption charges have been levelled against the minister. Earlier, he was charged with having evaded a tax of Rs 14crore by the State's Sales Tax Department.
"However, only a day after the release of the inquiry report, the Chief Minister regretted that media has sensationlised the Ansari episode. They should have sensationalised the Priyadarshni Mattoo murder case wherein the judge had said that though convinced that the accused was guilty, he was acquitting him due to the prosecution's failure in producing any evidence against him, he added.
Pointing out that the State's Information Department could not have circulated the inquiry report to media for publication without the clearance of the Chief Minister, sources attributed the change in Abdullah's stand on the minister to his threat to expose politicians and bureaucrats who were bent upon maligning his political career. He had threatened to come out with real facts about the Sidhra township project scam within the next few days.
"Why you want him (Ansari) to be dropped," Abdullah questioned in reply to questions by media persons the next day of the minister'sthreat. He has been given a month's time to explain certain doubts against him, the Chief Minister said, adding that even court could give a hearing to the accused in a case before it.
The Housing and Urban Development Minister was elected to the State Legislative Assembly as a Congress nominee from Pattan in 1996. In view of his close proximity with the Chief Minister, the latter took him into his cabinet despite his party (Congress) sitting in the opposition. Later, Congress expelled Ansari for continuing in the Farooq ministry.
Sources said that Farooq, who had made up his mind to show the door to the minister by making the inquiry report public, appeared to have found himself in a fix over latter's threat. It would have opened a pandora's box as the Crime Branch had also hinted at the involvement of Jammu and Kashmir Bank (JKB) chairman who is considered to be close to Farooq.
According to the Crime Branch investigations, a New Delhi based firm M/s Infratructure Projects Private Limited (IPPL)offered the Jammu Development Authority (JDA) a loan of Rs 150 crore in three equal instalments for the development of a satellite town project at Sidhra near Jammu city during March 1997.
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