Opposition MLAs in Assam on Thursday walked out of the state Assembly after the Speaker denied their demand to discuss allegations that a company linked to Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s wife received subsidy under a central scheme, PTI reported.
On Wednesday, the Congress had alleged that Sarma used his influence to get the Central government subsidy of Rs 10 crore for his wife Riniki Bhuyan Sharma’s company.
Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi had said that the subsidy was granted under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampad Yojanas agro-processing clusters programme to Pride East Entertainment Private Limited on November 10 for a project valued at Rs 25.88 crore.
According to the details of the project under the scheme, the company is owned by Sarma’s wife. The company owns two news channels, one newspaper, a digital portal and at least three entertainment channels, reported Newslaundry. It has been expanding its operation to silk production and food processing.
On Thursday, the Congress gave an adjournment motion notice to discuss the matter, reported PTI.
Speaker Biswajit Daimary rejected the notice, saying that it was “not in order” and that the issue did not merit an adjournment motion.
This prompted several Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLAs as well as Independent legislator Akhil Gogoi to storm into the Well of the House with placards and shouting slogans, reported PTI.
The House was subsequently adjourned twice for 30 minutes, followed by Opposition MLAs staging a walkout.
Meanwhile on X, formerly Twitter, Gaurav Gogoi shared a reply by Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal in the Lok Sabha that showed details of the projects approved under the Central scheme. It included a grant approved to Pride East Entertainment Private Limited.
To this, Himanta Biswa Sarma said that Goyal’s reply shows that the Union government has not released any funds to the company. Sarma reiterated that neither his wife nor the company she is associated with has received or claimed any amount from the government.
In response, Gogoi asked: “Is Hon’ble chief minister complaining to Union Minister Piyush Goyal? He is saying that Piyush Goyal has only approved the grant to the wife of Himanta Biswa Sarma but has not released the funds. How many more BJP politicians have used the PMKSY scheme to enrich their families?
Sarma then said that all Bharatiya Janata Party members have the right to run their companies and seek government subsidies. “This is true for everyone,” he added. “However, I would like to clarify that in this particular case, my wife has not even claimed the subsidy.”
According to Newslaundry, Pride East Entertainment Private Limited had acquired nearly 50 bighas (7,20,000 square feet) of agricultural land in Dari Goji village in Nagaon’s Kaliabor circle for its proposed food processing plant in February 2022.
Notably, two months later, documents on the Assam revenue records website showed that a majority of the land’s category was changed from agricultural to industry. The change in the land’s definition had also coincided with its identification as the location for the potential food processing plant, according to Newslaundry.
Defamation case against Gaurav Gogoi
Riniki Bhuyan Sharma on Thursday said that she will file a defamation case against Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi for accusing her of receiving subsidy under the Central government scheme.
Sharma said that she is eligible to participate in government-supported programs and incentive schemes since her company Pride East Entertainments Private Limited is like any other qualifying enterprise.
“However in the present case, pertaining to the PM Kisan Sampada Scheme, Pride East Entertainments Private Limited has neither claimed or received a single paisa of government subsidy, despite meeting all the eligibility criteria,” she said.
She also claimed that the recent developments are an attempt to defame and malign her enterprise that has adhered to every aspect of the law.
“To protect the reputation of our hardworking employees from this slanderous campaign of Sri Gaurav Gogoi-Hon’ble Member of Parliament, I am thereby constrained to file a case of defamation with Rs 10 crore in damages against him in the court of law,” Sharma said.