New Delhi/Jaipur: Stepping up the demand for Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's resignation, the Congress on Monday alleged that she had "direct financial dealings" with former IPL chief Lalit Modi. The BJP vehemently refuted the charge as "baseless".
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who has been at the forefront of making serious allegations against Raje, claimed that the chief minister had helped convert a state-owned palace in Dholpur, about 260 km from Jaipur, into private property.
He alleged that Niyant Heritage Pvt. Ltd., a company owned by Raje, her son Dushyant Singh, daughter-in-law Niharika Singh and Lalit Modi had taken over a Rajasthan government property, converted it into a private high-end luxury hotel and invested over Rs.100 crore.
"A joint venture company is running Niyant Heritage which is running Dholpur palace," he said.
Ramesh showed Rajasthan government documents to claim that Dholpur palace -- built in the late 19th century and which has eight royal palace rooms and 18 luxury villas -- was never a private property of the erstwhile Dholpur royal family.
In Jaipur, the Bharatiya Janata Party's Rajasthan unit rubbished the allegations, saying that the palace's ownership was very much with Dushyant Singh.
"All the allegations are baseless. We have papers to prove that the Dholpur palace belongs to Dushyant Singh. There is no illegal occupation on the palace. Moreover, everyone knows that Vasundhara Raje ji is known as the Maharani (queen) of Dholpur city," BJP state president Ashok Parnami said.
"Even the records with the municipality show that the palace belongs to Dushyant Singh," he added.
Parnami challenged Jairam Ramesh to a debate on the issue. "Either he should prove the charges or quit politics."
Parnami accused the Congress of running a smear campaign to tarnish Raje's image. "The party, which has a history of corruption, is levelling allegations against us."
Ramesh earlier asserted that he had conclusive proof that the Dholpur palace belonged to the government.
"We sadly have to state that Vasundhara Raje's husband in 1980 made a statement saying Dholpur palace belongs to the government," Ramesh said.
He accused Raje and Lalit Modi of converting government property into personal assets. "Even Vasundhara Raje herself had admitted that the Dholpur property was owned by the government of Rajasthan.
"First, she (Raje) and fugitive Lalit Modi are business partners. Second, Lalit Modi got Rs.21 crore from Mauritius and invested (it) in Dushyant Singh's company. Third, Raje signed a seven-page document for UK authorities to help him (Lalit Modi)," Ramesh said.
The Congress leader also took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, describing him as "Swami Maunendra Baba" for his continued silence over the Lalit Modi issue.
The Congress also wants External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to quit for helping Lalit Modi -- who faces charges of financial impropriety -- get travel documents.
Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party activists staged protests in the national capital demanding the sacking of Raje, Sushma Swaraj, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani and Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde of the BJP.
A court here has taken cognizance of a complaint challenging the educational qualification of Smriti Irani, while Pankaja Munde has been accused of corruption in Maharashtra.