Nagpur: When you are in politics and in a position of power even a hint of suspicion by your team can harm your reputation as well. Even if you are perceived as being Mr. Clean.
This is what seems to be happening with our C.M. Devendra Fadnavis ever since he has taken the mantle of chieftainship almost 3 years ago.
What is worse is, that even when guilt has been proven against them, Fadnavis is perceived as being indecisive in taking action.
Why is the Housing Minister still in place? Opposition leaders are asking – and with reason.
Prakash Mehta, Housing Minister of Maharashtra, has been caught lying and his name has cropped up in not one but two potential land-related scams of gigantic proportions. In the first, he facilitated windfall gains of Rs 500-800 crore to a private builder in a slum redevelopment project in the MP Mills compound in Tardeo in South Mumbai by allotting extra floor space index (FSI) despite warnings by bureaucrats and other authorities.But his alleged misdeeds were not limited to just over-ruling the bureaucrats – Mehta made notings in the file saying he had apprised the chief minister of the action and had received the latter’s consent. When Fadnavis denied he had ever been told about the extra FSI, Mehta backtracked but the opposition was quick to sense the breach and went for the government’s jugular. Caught in the lie, Mehta backtracked saying he had taken several files to Fadnavis but did not realise he had not carried the one referring to this particular case. Any other chief minister put in an embarrassing situation like this would have been livid, but Fadnavis says he has accepted Mehta’s excuse.
For Mehta, it seems there is no end to scams and scandals. Barely had the chief minister ordered an investigation into the SRA scam on July 31 than Mehta found himself embroiled in another scam favouring another private builder, Nirmal Holdings Private Ltd (NHPL), in Ghatkopa? in North East Mumbai. NHPL had been allotted 18,902 square metres of land belonging to the Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) in 1999 to build a transit camp with some 330-odd units, but when they failed to do so, MHADA cancelled the allotment in 2006. Mehta intervened with MHADA over the re-allotment, which was finally revoked in 2012. But now the Congress and NCP, have alleged he re-allocated the plot to NHPL again.
Despite all these cases, why is the Minister still being shielded?
Wasn’t it Devendra himself who congratulated Nitish Kumar, Bihar C.M., for acting sternly against Corruption?
Instead of action against him, something more scandalous happened in fact. In an unprecedented move in the country’s legislative history, the government abandoned the legislature proceedings after the Congress-NCP refused to relent and asked hard questions on the behaviour of housing minister Prakash Mehta. In other circumstances this would be termed a walkout. Only, this time it was by the Ruling party itself!
Another case of blatant corruption that has put the CM in a tight spot in more ways than one, is the case of his favourite bureaucrat Mopalwar.
There was tremendous ruckus in the Maharashtra Assembly and outside when the opposition produced a clear audio recording of him allegedly discussing a payment of Rs 4 crore to clear a plot of land in Mumbai. The clip is apparently from 2009, allowing the chief minister to point out that it happened during the Congress-NCP rule. But the bureaucrat’s misdemeanors do not end there.
Given charge of the C.M.’s ambitious super
express way between Mumbai and Nagpur, Samrudhi Express, Mopalwar has had to face the ire of farmers from the Nashik stretch, and he has been visiting the Igatpuri and Sinnar talukas in the district frequently to iron out the problems.
It seems like a la Mehta, he also tried to pin the blame on the C.M.!
During one of his visits, he told some local newspapers that Samruddhi was not getting off the ground because the chief minister was sitting on a file he had sent across for the formation of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to build the expressway. But apparently, the first Fadnavis heard of this SPV was when he visited Nashik on July 30 along with Union railways minister Suresh Prabhu to start operations for a cold storage plant in Lasalgaon being promoted by Indian Railways.
When Fadnavis was asked by a local journalist why he was sitting on the SPV file he was nonplussed. The accompanying chief secretary, Sumeet Mallick, reportedly said, “What SPV? MSRDC itself is a SPV. Why does Mopalwar want a SPV for Samruddhi?”
Even as Mopalwar has been divested of his charge pending investigation amid allegations that he has amassed wealth in crores, which he has denied, NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik told this correspondent, “Why blame Mehta and Mopalwar alone? The chief minister is responsible for this mess. If he had taken sterner action against all his corrupt ministers (on last count there were 17 in his cabinet with various charges, including that of murder, banking frauds and land grab), these guys would not have dared to indulge in such corruption. We demand a judicial inquiry into the entire Samruddhi project – it will reveal how many people close to the government knew the project was coming bought land cheap from farmers and are now making a killing”.
True that. As per reports if the Samrudhi closet is cleaned, it is alleged many skeletons will come crumbling out.