Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma engaged in a war of words on Saturday after the former alleged that Sarma gave contracts to companies of his wife and son’s business partners to supply PPE kits above market rates during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
The allegations drew a sharp rebuttal from Sarma who threatened to file a defamation suit against Sisodia and asked him to “stop sermonising”.
Citing media reports, AAP leader Sisodia alleged at a press conference that Sarma took “advantage” of the Covid-19 pandemic. He claimed that while the Assam government procured PPE kits for Rs 600 a piece from other companies, CM Sarma gave urgent supply orders to the firms of his wife and son’s business partners for Rs 990 a piece.
He also attached the supply order of 5000 kits at the rate of Rs 990 from NHM to JCB Industries on March 18, 2020 to support his claims.
Sisodia further claimed that the company belonging to Sarma’s wife, Rinki Sarma Bhuyan, does not even deal in medical equipment. “While the contract given to the firm of Sarma’s wife was cancelled as the company could not supply PPE kits, another supply order was given to the firm belonging to the business partners of his son at a rate of Rs 1,680 per kit,” Sisodia said citing a media report.
Sisodia lashed out at the BJP, saying why it was keeping quiet on the “corruption” allegedly perpetrated by its chief minister. “They talk of corruption and level baseless allegations against members of opposition parties. I want to probe their understanding of corruption… want to ask them if they consider this (Assam case) corruption or not,” Sisodia added.
The AAP leader also flagged the arrest of the Delhi government minister Satyendar Jain by the ED as “bogus” and said the Centre told the court on Friday that he is “not an accused”.
The ED had arrested Jain on May 30 in a money laundering case after hours of questioning. The agency has alleged that the AAP leader and his wife had amassed disproportionate wealth worth Rs 1.47 crore between February 2015 and May 2017, more than double their known sources of income.
The Assam chief minister lashed out at Sisodia for the allegations and said that the state didn’t have enough PPE kits in 2020 when Covid was raging all across the country.
In a series of tweets, Sarma wrote, “My wife gathered the courage to come forward and donated around 1500 of them free of cost to the government to save lives. She didn’t take a single penny”. The chief minister also attached a letter of appreciation from the then National Health Mission director Dr Lakshmanan for providing the PPE kits as corporate social responsibility during Covid-19 by JCB Industries, of which Sarma’s wife is a partner.
“Stop sermonising. I will see you in Guwahati as you (Sisodia) will face criminal defamation,” he said.
The Assam chief minister also said that although the NHM issued the order, the company had raised no bill and the kits were gifted to the government.
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) June 4, 2022
“Not a single penny was transacted, where is the corruption?”’ he asked in a tweet. “’Due to acute shortage then, every government, including yours (Delhi government) waived the tender for PPE kit and went for direct purchase. Don’t cherry-pick from half the documents. Have the courage to put (forward) all the facts. Don’t show half of a document trail, have courage to put all the facts,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)