Amid the PPE kit row in Assam where Assam chief minister Himata Biswa Sarma has been accused of giving a contract to his wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, an allegation now amplified by the Aam Aadmi Party, the Assam chief minister on Sunday attacked Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal referring to his 2020 tweet exchange with Delhi BJP MP cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir. “Delhi CM suo moto offered to buy PPE kits from anywhere without tender. Why? Does his Deputy CM think the CM is corrupt as he asked someone to arrange PPE kits from somewhere immediately, and said that Delhi Govt will buy them? No reference to any tender etc,” Himanta Biswa wrote on Twitter. Also Read: AAP’s Sisodia says Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma gave PPE kits’ contracts to kin
After the alleged PPE scam in Assam was reported, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Saturday accused Himanta Biswa of corruption, claiming that as the health minister, Himanta in 2020 had given the contract to a firm in which Sarma’s wife is a partner. Sisodia said in this contract one PPE kit was priced at ₹990, while the Assam government had the option to buy PPE kits at ₹600 per piece from other companies. Also Read: ‘Unfounded accusations’: Assam CM’s wife refutes reports of PPE kits scam
Countering Sisodia’s allegation, Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that those PPE kits were donated by his wife’s company under its corporate social responsibility and the government did not pay anything. The tug-of-war went on with Sisodia producing the supply order and Sarma claiming that his wife’s company did not raise a bill. Sarma also threatened to sue Sisodia for defamation.
The Assam chief minister on Sunday shared the letter from the company in question to Assam National Health Mission saying that the supply of the PPE kit should be treated as CSR.
“Assam NHM duly acknowledged the same. Manish bhai, this is not corruption, it’s humanity. My wife hasn’t committed a crime, she tried to help Assam at the time of its biggest crisis. Throwing muck at others will not be accepted. You will face legal consequences,” Himanta tweeted.
What is Kejriwal’s old tweet to Gautam Gambhir referred to by Assam CM in this ongoing controversy?
In 2020, during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, BJP MP Gautam Gambhir wrote to Kejriwal offering funds from his MP LAD for the purchase of PPE kits. “Gautam ji, thank u for ur offer. The problem is not of money but availability of PPE kits. We wud be grateful if u cud help us get them from somewhere immediately, Del govt will buy them. Thank u,” Kejriwal replied to Gautam Gambhir. Referring to this, Himanta Sarma, in his fresh attack to Manish Sisodia, asked whether Sisodia thought this too as corruption as there was no mention of any tender.
Who is Riniki Bhuyan Sarma at the centre of Assam’s PPE row?
Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, the wife of Himanta Sarma, is a businesswoman and a partner of JCB Industries. The Wire, which first reported the alleged PPR scam claimed JCB Industries, GRD Pharmaceuticals and Meditime Healthcare were the beneficiaries of the “urgent work orders” issued in 2020. The report claimed GRD and Meditime are owned by Guwahati’s Ghanshyam Dhanuka who has a link with Himanta Biswa’s son. It claimed Himanta’s son Nandil Biswa Sarma is a stakeholder in a company where Ghanshyam Dhanuka’s father is a full-time director.
Riniki Bhuyan Sarma already issued a statement saying allegations against her are baseless as she did not take a single penny.