The Congress has criticised the Jai Ram Thakur-led Bharatiya Janata Party government in Himachal Pradesh for its decision of restoring prime land near Sadhupul in Solan district to Yoga guru Ramdev's Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust.
The Himachal Pradesh government in its cabinet meeting in Shimla on Tuesday decided to lease out 28 acres of land to the Trust at Rs 2.39 crore as one-time concessional lease money for 99 years, according to a state revenue official.
Speaking with news agency PTI, Senior Congress leader Kaul Singh Thakur, who was revenue minister in the previous Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government which cancelled the lease in 2013, accused the state government of providing "undue" benefit to Ramdev.
"The Thakur government is providing undue benefit to Ramdev for its open support to the BJP in the last general elections by leasing out the valuable land to his Trust at a meagre lease money," Kaul Singh Thakur said.
The former minister alleged that the Thakur government was "selling out" state's interests by leasing out the valuable land at a "throwaway price". The Thakur government's decision of leasing out the prime land at a meagre amount will incur a huge loss to state exchequer, he added.
A government spokesperson said the state cabinet approved the lease amount of Patanjali Yog Peeth as per lease rules.
Kaul Singh Thakur said that instead of deciding to restore the prime land to Ramdev's Trust, BJP government should have cancelled the lease as the Trust failed to deposit the revised lease amount despite repeated reminders by Solan district administration.
Meanwhile, Solan Deputy Commissioner Vinod Kumar told news agency PTI that he had sent several notices to the Trust to deposit initial lease money of Rs 1.17 crore and sign the new lease agreement.
However, instead of depositing the amount, the Trust preferred to write to state government to provide the land at concessional rate, the revenue official said.
Earlier, cancelling in 2013 the initial lease executed by the Dhumal government at Rs 17 lakh per year in 2011-12, then chief minister Virbhadra Singh alleged that the state cabinet had approved a different land but in reality the prime land at Sadhupul was transferred.
A case was also registered against yoga guru Ramdev's close aide Balkrishna, who had signed the lease on behalf of the Trust.
However, taking a U-turn in February 2017, the Virbhadra Singh government allegedly decided to restore the land to the Trust on the condition that a writ petition filed by the Trust should be withdrawn.
"Our government restored the land to the Trust considering the market value at that time," Kaul Singh Thakur said.
As per the proposal, Patanjali Trust wants to set-up a herbal medicine farm-cum-Ayurveda medical research centre.
Following a fresh representation by the Trust, the Thakur government decided to return the land to the Trust at Rs 2.39 crore one-time lease, the revenue official said.
The cabinet restored the land with a discount of 20 per cent under section 8 (D) of the HP Lease Rules. The Trust has been told to deposit Rs 2.22 crore as one time concessional lease money as it had already deposited Rs 17 lakh under earlier decision of the cabinet, the official added.