How Priyanka Gandhi’s Husband ‘Got’ Ashok Khemka ‘Transferred’

The Quint presents an excerpt from ‘The Untold Story of Ashok Khemka | Just Transferred’.

Published11 Mar 2020, 09:18 AM IST
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(The following has been excerpted with permission from ‘The Untold Story of Ashok Khemka | Just Transferred’ by Bhavdeep Kang and Namita Kala, published by Harper Collins. The sub-headings are not part of the original text and have been added by The Quint. The views expressed below are the authors’ own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

When ‘Vadragate’ broke, Ashok Khemka was director general (DG), Land Records & Consolidation and inspector general (IG), Registration. He was fully aware that manipulation of revenue norms for the benefit of influential individuals was standard practice in Haryana. He had already inquired into and taken action in multiple instances of misappropriation of panchayat land.

The media frenzy after the Kejriwal-Bhushan press conference pointed the finger of suspicion squarely at his bailiwick. If, as news reports suggested, there was evidence of undervaluation of properties registered by Vadra’s companies, chances were that his department was involved. He decided to ask revenue officials in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Mewat and Palwal to examine the allegations of undervaluation in Vadra’s deals and demanded the relevant land records. After all, the ‘fair name’ of the state was being impugned. There was no reply.

How Khemka Was Shunted Out After Preparing to Scan Vadra’s Land Purchases

He reiterated his request for the records. One of the officials got back to him a couple of days later, expressing strong reservations about complying with his request. Word had come from ‘the top’ that the matter should not be pursued. Khemka brushed his fears aside and renewed his request for the records in question. On 8 October, he instructed his staff to prepare the paperwork for an inquiry into Vadra’s land purchases in Haryana. In retrospect, these were foolhardy moves with inevitable consequences. The CM must have heard of Khemka’s activities, for he was summoned to the CM’s residence on 11 October at around 6 PM. “You khoparchand (buffoon/fool)!” exploded the CM. Then, calming down, he said, “I am just joking. It is Haryanvi slang.”

He told Khemka that his tenure as DG, Land Records & Consolidation, and IG, Registration, was over. Khemka was upset.

He had taken over the post less than three months earlier, on 19 July 2012. Worse followed: He was to be shunted to an under-secretary level post in the Haryana Seeds Development Corporation (HSDC). With a seniority of twenty-two years, he was clearly qualified for a better post, befitting his rank. He registered his protest, but later that night, at 10 PM, the transfer order was delivered to his home. It was an error of judgement that was to cost Hooda dearly in the days to come, because Khemka’s stint in HSDC would lead to the unearthing of the Raxil scam which would result in a CBI investigation.

Khemka’s Resistance Against An Unfair Transfer

On the morning of 12 October, a Friday, Khemka followed protocol by calling up the incumbent MD of the HSDC, a promotee and twelve years his junior. He asked his successor when he should take charge. The gentleman was on tour in Rewari, and suggested that they swap jobs on Monday, after the weekend. Khemka informed the office of the chief secretary of the conversation. And off he went to his old office. The news dominating the day was a press conference by the former CM, Om Prakash Chautala, who alleged that Real Earth Estate Pvt. Ltd, a firm owned by Vadra, had bought 29 acres of land in Mewat at a price far below the collector rate. Chautala demanded a probe into Vadra’s dealings in Haryana and alleged undervaluation of registered sale deeds.

Khemka lost no time in issuing a formal order instituting an inquiry into Vadra’s dealings in four districts of Haryana.

Then, he shot off a letter to the chief secretary protesting against his transfer.

Vadra’s Deal with DLF in Shikohpur Village

At noon, one of his subordinates dropped in to see him. The man’s main agenda pertained to a departmental inquiry against him. He wanted Khemka to undertake it. ‘Sir’ told him that it was no longer possible because he had been transferred, but he promised to write an explanatory note for his successor. They chatted and that’s when Khemka learnt about the size of Robert Vadra’s deal with DLF in Shikohpur village. Vadra had sold his land to DLF on 18 September 2012. Judging from the size of the deal, said his subordinate, the land was worth “16 crore an acre”.

“You are lying!” exclaimed Khemka.

“No, no! I am telling the truth, sir,” the subordinate protested. He went on to suggest that if someone were to purchase two half-acre plots in Shikohpur village, where consolidation was underway, he could ensure the allotment of a 1-acre plot adjoining Vadra’s. Would ‘sir’ know of anyone who might be interested in such a deal? Khemka shook his head dismissively. But on his way out, the functionary decided to drop a copy of the Vadra-DLF sale deed in his superior’s car.

Khemka Was Expected to Remain ‘Blind, Deaf & Mute’

When Khemka got home, his man Friday, as usual, piled all the files and sundry papers he had found in the car next to the bed. Right on top was the Vadra-DLF sale deed. The name ‘Skylight’ caught Khemka’s eye. He picked up the document and started reading. As Khemka read the sale deed, it became clear to him that Vadra had earned super profits through what appeared to be a chain of suspicious transactions. He then rang up an official in the Town & Country Planning department to verify the facts of the case. That gentleman confirmed that the information in the sale deed was correct.

A short while later, a senior official from the department called. His junior colleague had obviously told him that Khemka was making inquiries.

He was brief and to the point: do not probe further or create a problem by sharing this information with others. It was clear to Khemka that the deal in question was not above board, because it involved sidestepping rules and a substantial loss to the Exchequer. On the other hand, as a loyal bureaucrat, he was expected to behave like Gandhi’s three monkeys and remain blind, deaf and mute.

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