Jaipur, July 27 IANS | 2 years ago

The Congress high command has sought a report from the party's Rajasthan unit on the resignation of Hemaram Chaudhary as the revenue minister to protest the shift in the location of a proposed oil refinery, sources said Saturday.

Chaudhary tendered his resignation Wednesday when some leaders and people accused him of keeping silent as the state government decided to shift the location of a refinery from Leelala to nearby Pachpadara in Barmer district, some 500 km from Jaipur.

Chaudhary represents Gudamalani constituency in Barmer. He claimed that baseless allegations were being levelled against him over the refinery issue.

On March 14, the Rajasthan government had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with HPCL (Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited) to set up a refinery and petroleum complex in Barmer district, with a nine million tonne per annum capacity.

The government had earlier considered setting up the refinery at Leelala near Barmer town.

In June this year, however, the government announced abruptly a decision to shift the proposed refinery to Pachpadra, near the Barmer-Jodhpur border, and said that the farmers of Leelala were demanding exorbitant sums as compensation for land to be acquired for the setting up the refinery.

Assembly elections are scheduled in the state this year-end, and there are concerns that Chaudhary's resignation would affect electoral equations.

Sources said Chaudhary's resignation might further damage the Jat vote bank of the Congress party in Rajasthan, a prospect which has left the high command worried.

The Jat community, which is a powerful electoral force in the state, is believed to be already moving away from the Congress.

"The arrest of Mahipal Maderna in the Bhanwari Devi murder case and the resignation of Ramlal Jat from the council of ministers had already dealt heavy blows to the party's vote bank. Now, the party cannot afford the resignation of another prominent Jat leader," a senior Congress leader said, pleading anonymity.

People of Leelala and nearby villages have been staging large demonstrations in the area for the past few days, demanding that the shifting of the refinery to Pachpadara be cancelled.

Some leaders supporting the agitation alleged that Chaudhury, the people's representative from the area, had kept mum.

Sources said that Chaudhary had been hurt by the allegations and decided to resign from the council of ministers. His resignation is yet to be accepted.

"State chief minister Ashok Gehlot is trying hard to make Chaudhary withdraw the resignation," a Congress leader said.

A source said the Congress high command had asked the state unit to send a report on the issue, and sort it out immediately.

"State Congress president Chandrabhan and two state ministers A.A. Khan and Jitendra Singh are constantly in touch with Chaudhary," the source said.

(Posted on 27-07-2013)