India BJP's Nitin Gadkari denies 'land grab' charges

Nitin Gadkari Nitin Gadkari has denied all the charges against him

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The chief of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has denied allegations of involvement in a massive corruption scandal.

Nitin Gadkari said he was ready for an investigation into allegations made by anti-corruption campaigners that he was involved in an irrigation scam worth millions of dollars.

He has been accused of stealing "the water, power and land of poor farmers".

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

India's top anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal made the allegations against Mr Gadkari at a press conference in the capital, Delhi, on Wednesday.

Mr Kejriwal alleged that the government in Maharashtra state - run by a coalition of the Congress party and Nationalist Congress Party - bent rules to give away land owned by farmers to Mr Gadkari, who is also a businessman.

He alleged that the land left after building a dam should have been returned to the farmers from whom it was bought, but instead it was sold cheaply to Mr Gadkari.

Mr Kejriwal said that water from the dam was also diverted to factories in the area, instead of being given to the farms.

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 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 Gadkari said the allegations of "land [grabbing] are absurd".

"Land has been given on lease to a charitable trust which functions like a cooperative. It is not owned by me," Mr Gadkari told reporters.

"I am ready for any kind of probe," he said.

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.

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