India BJP's Gadkari accused in irrigation scandal

Nitin Gadkari Nitin Gadkari has denied all the charges against him

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India's top anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal has accused Nitin Gadkari, chief of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, of involvement in a massive corruption scandal.

The activist alleged that Mr Gadkari was involved in an irrigation scam worth millions of dollars.

Mr Kejriwal accused the BJP leader of stealing "the water, power and land of poor farmers".

Mr Gadkari has rejected similar charges by activists in the past.

When the allegations were first made by activist Anjali Damania, who accused Mr Gadkari of allegedly covering up the Maharashtra irrigation scandal, the BJP leader described them as "false, baseless and defamatory".

WHO IS NITIN GADKARI?

Nitin Gadkari was appointed leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in December 2009.

His appointment surprised many within the party and outside.

A politician from the western state of Maharashtra, he was considered an outsider by the party leadership in Delhi and a political lightweight.

But, Mr Gadkari, a 55-year-old businessman, is considered close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu nationalist organisation which is the ideological parent of the BJP.

Before his elevation to the party president's post, he headed the BJP in Maharashtra and served as a minister in the state government from 1995 to 1999.

He said he would "quit politics if any charges are proved".

In recent days, Mr Kejriwal has made serious corruption allegations against Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Robert Vadra, son-in-law of the ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Both men strenuously deny the allegations.

On Wednesday, Mr Kejriwal and Ms Damania appeared at a crowded press conference in the capital, Delhi.

Mr Kejriwal alleged that Mr Gadkari's business interests were "flourishing in Maharashtra at the cost of dying farmers".

He alleged that Mr Gadkari had "remained silent" in the irrigation scandal - which recently led to the resignation of former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar - because Mr Pawar had helped him acquire land for irrigation projects.

Mr Kejriwal, who recently entered politics and announced a new political party "to fight corruption and the culture of bribe-taking", has threatened to expose corrupt leaders from the government and opposition parties.

India has been hit by a series of corruption scandals recently and the allegations against Mr Gadkari are the latest by Mr Kejriwal's group to be aimed at senior politicians.

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