Rajasthan Minister Flags Rs 1,140-Crore 'Loss' In Project By Own Government

Kirodi Lal Meena has said that the General Administration Department, which is under Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma, is going ahead with the project without cabinet clearance.

Bhajan Lal Sharma, a first-time MLA, took oath as the Rajasthan chief minister in December last year.


The six-month-old Bhajan Lal Sharma government in Rajasthan is facing its first major crisis, and a possible rift, with a cabinet minister flagging lapses in a housing project being handled by a department that comes under the chief minister. 

In a letter to Mr Sharma, senior BJP leader and Agriculture Minister Kirodi Lal Meena has said the way the project in Jaipur's upmarket area of Gandhinagar - which is home to senior judges and IAS officers among others - is being planned will result in a loss of Rs 1,146 crore to the state government. 

Mr Meena has also said that the General Administration Department (GAD), which is under the chief minister, is going ahead with the project without cabinet clearance and has urged Mr Sharma to stop it and recall the file. 

Numbers Game

In the letter, Mr Meena speaks about the planned redevelopment of the old MREC campus In Gandhinagar, where the GAD plans to demolish existing buildings and build multi-storey towers. The minister has said the area was valued at Rs 277 crore five years ago and a new assessment has put its value at Rs 218 crore. The reserve price of the land, he claims, is also undervalued at Rs 8,000 per square foot against the current rate of Rs 25,000.

This means, according to the letter, that the state government is incurring a loss of nearly Rs 17,000 per square foot. The government is also planning to give nearly 33% - or a third - of the flats to private players as part of a public-private partnership.

All of these, Mr Meena said, add up to a loss of 1,146 crore to the state treasury. Claiming that the file for the project has not been cleared by the cabinet or the finance ministry, the minister has urged Mr Sharma to "immediately" recall it.

Political Fallout

This is not the first time the senior minister has objected to decisions being taken by his own government. Last month, he had raised concerns about land being sold under the Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project and had also hinted at corruption, after which the chief minister took action. 

Before contesting the Assembly polls, Mr Meena was a Rajya Sabha member and had played a big role in the campaign. After the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government was defeated last year, the BJP sprang a surprise by making first-time MLA Bhajan Lal Sharma the chief minister, causing some consternation in the faction led by two-time former chief minister Vasundhara Raje.  

Mr Meena is also said to be unhappy with the portfolios he had been allotted and was reportedly seeking a ticket for his brother from the Dausa Lok Sabha constituency, but it was given to Kanhaiya Lal Meena. The minister has been saying he will resign if the Dausa candidate does not win the Lok Sabha election and there has been speculation about whether this is a sign of confidence or a threat. 

The BJP had won 24 out of 25 seats in Rajasthan in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, with the lone remaining seat also going to an NDA ally. It had also won all 25 seats in 2014, and both of these elections were fought under Vasundhara Raje. 

This year's Lok Sabha elections are being seen as a litmus test for the new dispensation and sources said if the BJP's seats go down even a few notches, Mr Sharma may have a tough time battling factions within his government and the party.