The Uttar Pradesh government and the Opposition were engaged in a blame game over the investment of over Rs 2,600 crore of the state power corporation employees' provident fund in scam-hit housing finance firm DHFL.
The Adityanath government accused the previous Akhilesh Yadav dispensation of "opening the gate of corruption" by taking the "dubious" decision of investing part of the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) employees' provident fund (EPF) in DHFL.
The Samajwadi Party accused the BJP of diverting the attention of the public by blaming party chief and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, while the Congress demanded the resignation of state Energy Minister Shrikant Sharma.
According to Sharma, UPPCL director (finance) Sudhanshu Dwivedi and Praveen Kumar Gupta, the then secretary of the state power employees trust and UPPCL provident fund trust, began the actual investment in the DHFL from March 2017 without bringing the matter to the knowledge of the power utility's managing director.
Sharma said the two officials began investing the UPPCL's EPF in the Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd (DHFL) despite a clearance to deposit the money for a fixed period in the Punjab National Bank (PNB).
Gupta and Dwivedi have already been arrested and an FIR was registered at the Hazratganj police station in Lucknow.
Adityanath had on Saturday recommended a CBI probe into the investment of Rs 2,631.20-crore EPF of the UPPCL in DHFL.
Incidentally, the DHFL promoters were also recently grilled by the Enforcement Directorate for their alleged links with a front company of Iqbal Mirchi, a former aide of fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim.
Detailing chronology of the investment decision, Sharma said: "During the Akhilesh Yadav's regime on April 21, 2014, it was decided that if there are options of getting more interest, the amount of EPF and GPF (general provident fund) can be invested there (DHFL)."
"By taking this decision, the gates of corruption were opened (during the SP regime)," the minister said.
"The process of investment was carried forward in 2016 and, on December 17, 2016, the trust's secretary (Gupta) and UPPCL's finance director (Dwivedi) were authorised for this," he said. "After this, from March 2017, the process to investment of the EPF money in DHFL began."
According to Sharma, a committee was constituted within two days after getting a complaint of the "dubious investment" on July 10 this year. The report was submitted on August 29 and the government had initiated strict action on the basis of its recommendations.
The minister pointed out that the energy department portfolio was with Yadav at that time.
"He (Akhilesh) is trying to put our government in the dock alleging corruption, but he should reply why his government prepared the ground for corruption. Was not the entire matter going on Akhilesh's directions?" Sharma asked.
The Samajwadi Party hit back at the BJP and dubbed the allegations "false".
"The ruling party, which is neck deep in corruption, is diverting attention of the public. It is levelling false allegations due to politics of hatred," it tweeted. "BJP minister Sharma ji who has taken a donation of Rs 20 crore from DHFL must answer 'yeh rishtaa kya kehlaata hai' (what is relationship is called)?"
Taking a dig at Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Sharma said: "She (Priyanka), too, should tell the people why her husband (Robert Vadra) grabbed land of farmers in Bikaner and Haryana."
The minister's response came after Priyanka Gandhi accused the BJP-led dispensation of investing the money of UPPCL's employees in "dubious" companies.
"Whose interest was to be served by investing more than Rs 2,000 crore of the employees' hard-earned money in such a company? Is it justified to play with the future of the employees?" Priyanka Gandhi had asked in a tweet.
Slamming the Congress and the SP, Sharma said: "It's laughable that the parties, whose names are synonymous with corruption, have levelled allegations against the government of a 'sanyasi'."
The state Congress had demanded that the energy minister be sacked.
"Why the BJP, which teaches lessons of morality, is not seeking the resignation of the energy minister of Uttar Pradesh?" state Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh asked on Twitter. "After such a major scandal in the UP Power Corporation, why the chief minister is fixing blame on 'chhote log', and not sacking the energy minister. Will Yogi ji tell as to why is the energy minister not being removed?"
State Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu said the party would launch an agitation against the scandal and continue to fight for the employees unless "every single penny is recovered".
Sharma said the government would ensure the recovery of the money left with the DHFL and the guilty would be dealt with strictly. He sought to assure the power corporation's employees that the government would take any steps needed to protect their interest.
In a statement on Sunday, All India Power Engineers Federation chairman Shailendra Dubey said: "UP Power employees welcome the decision to go for CBI enquiry. But we demand that the chairman and managing director of UP Power Corporation Limited be removed for independent probe.