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The political scam game of Louis Berger scandal
Assam CM Tarun Gogoi has come under attack in Assam along with a former Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma after Louis Berger International Inc, a US based firm has confessed to the bribery allegations and agreed to pay a fine of $17.1 million criminal fee. With this, the BJP government at the centre and a opposition in the state of Assam is creating huge ruckus as surfacing of Louis Berger scandal is perfectly timed when the BJP government at the centre is plagued with allegation of corruption. Now it's a scam versus scam politics.
What is Louis Berger scam: US-based firm Louis Berger International Inc has admittedly paid just under $1 million to bag water projects in Goa and Guwahati. The project was to build and expand water and sewerage facilities. The project was sanctioned in 2007. To fund the project, the Congress Government in Assam took a hefty loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA. Internal audit revealed firm paid bribes in India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Vietnam. Based on the audit report, the US Justice Department prosecuted two former executives of the firm – Richard Hirsch and James McClung, who had served as senior vice president for the firm's India operations.
Louis Berger Water Project in Guwahati: Guwahati is the largest city in Assam and in the northeastern region of India; its population in 2007 was approximately 1.11 million, which is estimated to increase to 2.80 million in 2025, and to 3.23 million in 2040. Guwahati City is divided into four distribution zones for water supply — south central, southwest, southeast and north.. The Government of Japan extended a package of Official Development Assistance to India to construct water supply facilities in the south-central and north zones of Guwahati city for the Louis Berger water project. The Louis Berger Group, working close with the Guwahati Metropolitan development Authority is preparing detailed design and drawings of water supply facilities, reviewing and finalizing detailed cost estimates, establishing a procurement management system and tender process, supervising and managing its contracts, liaising with JICA and other authorities, and providing financial management.
Assam former Minister under fire: Former Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sharma is under the scanner after Louise Berger International Inc admitted of paying Rs 6.1 crore for two water projects in Guwahati and Goa. Himanta Biswa Sarma, who earlier unsuccessfully led a rebellion against the Chief Minister, was Guwahati Development Department (GDD) Minister between 2006 and April 2011. The company was awarded the consultancy in 2009-2010 along with Japanese firm Nihon Psuido and Shah Technical Consultants. The Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA), which is under the GDD, is handling the project. When the US firm confessed that bribe was paid to an "unknown minister", all eyes turned to the then GMDA Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sharma.
The politics of Louis Berger scam: Louis Berger scandal is the best bet for BJP as of now . The Louis Berger scam has been surfaced at a time the BJP was desperate to counter the Congress' campaign for the resignation of its Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Chief Ministers Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan and Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh. At present, the BJP has latched on to the Louis Berger scam in Goa and Guwahati. For Bhartiya Janata Party, the timing of the Louis Berger scandal with its sensational revelation that a bribe was paid to an as yet unknown minister presumably Congress could well be the almost perfect booster shot for a party plagued by allegations of corruption in the national level.
The Assam scenario of politics: Assam CM Tarun Gogoi has also come under attack in Assam as the Louis Berger scandal happened during the second term of the Gogoi led Congress. But, many in the Assam Congress is secretly rejoicing about the fact that once proved to be associated with the million dollar scam, the oust of rebel Congress leader Dr. Himanta Biswa Sharma from the party will be ascertained. Dr. Sharma has been leading the rebellion against the Assam Congress since more than two years. Once a lieutenant of Gogoi, Himanta Biswa Sharma, the then GMDA Minister, is now the opponent of Tarun Gogoi. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Monday ordered a probe into the Louis Berger Guwahati Water Supply Project bribery scam. The inquiry will be conducted by Additional Chief Secretary Subhash Chandra Das.