Riniki Bhuyan Sharma, the wife of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, on Friday filed a defamation suit against Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi for alleging that her company received subsidy under a Central scheme, reported PTI.
Gogoi had alleged last week that Sarma used his influence to the subsidy 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. Sharma owns the company.
“Are Central government schemes meant to enrich the BJP,” Gogoi had asked. He had also demanded the chief minister’s resignation over the allegations.
Sarma had denied the allegations saying that neither him nor his wife received any benefits through the scheme. The matter was raised by the Opposition MLAs in the Assam Assembly last week.
On Friday, senior advocate Devajit Saikia who represents Sharma said that the case was filed at the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) of Kamrup Metropolitan and it will be moved on September 26.
“My client has claimed a defamation of Rs 10 crore against Gaurav Gogoi for various tweets on X,” Saikia told PTI. “We have made it very clear that we never made any application to receive subsidy.”
The lawyer also claimed that getting approval for a project does not mean that a subsidy has been received. “The approval for the project was given on November 22, 2022,” he told the news agency. “In the last email, we were told that our claim would lapse if we didn’t submit our proposal. We are not responding to anything to seek subsidy.”
On September 14, Sharma had said that she is eligible to participate in government-supported programs and incentive schemes since her company is like any other qualifying enterprise. However, she said that no subsidy was granted to her under the central scheme.
She also claimed that the allegations were 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 had said.
Allegations against Sharma
Sharma’s Pride East Entertainment Private Limited owns two news channels, one newspaper, a digital portal, and at least three entertainment channels and has been expanding its operation to silk production and food processing, reported 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 their proposed food processing plant in February 2022, Newslaundry reported.
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.
The allegations were first raised by Guwahati-based news portal The CrossCurrent that stated that Sharma became a majority shareholder in the company in 2018. Presently, Sharma, her son Nandil Biswa Sarma, her mother-in-law Mrinalini Devi and Bhaskar Sarma are the directors of the company.