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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014
Lamb to the slaughter
Sujata Anandan, Hindustan Times
January 07, 2014
First Published: 21:10 IST(7/1/2014)
Last Updated: 21:13 IST(7/1/2014)

I must say deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar does know how to take care of his own.

The judicial commission which probed the Adarsh housing scam has a two page indictment on Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope – in scathing words the commission has cxpressed its `displeasure’ over Tatkare and Tope attempting to meddle with the Adarsh allotments despite having no jurisdiction and there being ``not even a whisper’’  that then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, in his capacity as urban development minister, might have asked his ministers of state to do so.

Both Tatkare and Tope are NCP men and , I am told, the cabinet meeting called to endorse and accept the report last week was delayed by two hours because Ajit was haranguing chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to leave them well alone. When the two hours of a private pow-wow still did not convince Chavan, another two hours were spent at the cabinet meeting formally arguing their cases until the CM ceded and agreed to let them off.

No wonder, then, that former chief minister Ashok Chavan is sore at that decision – for the Commission indicts him only in three lines – for a quid pro quo – while at the same time clearly stating that "Shri  Ashok Chavan  cannot be said to have favoured or obliged the Adarsh CHS by allowing civilians to be members of it." The Commission clearly concluded that the land belonged to the state government and thus there could have been no misappropriation of the rights of defence personnel in the allotments of shares to civilians.

Ashok Chavan is now fighting a lonely battle in the courts and while his friends are certain he will be able to establish his innocence, it is clear that there are a lot of undercurrents within the Congress which, in the current milieu facing the country, is finding it impossible not to feed him to rhe lions.  His friends tell me it is a deliberate conspiracy to destroy one of the few challengers to the throne – and that it may not be entirely a Congress-led move.

Ashok Chavan is young enough and capable enough to pose a threat to even the Pawars who hopes to pip the Congress to the post in the absence of credible alternatives at next year’s elections. Bailing out Tatkare and Tope when the Commission has clearly expressed its displeasure at their attempt to appropriate to themselves an authority they did not possess is part of that game plan.

The scams in both the UPA government at the Centre as well as in the state have been indulged in more by the Congress’s allies than the Congress per se – and the allies have been blasé enough to escape, leaving the Congress holding the baby as well as hwholly drenched In their bath water.

In this specific case, while my sympathies are with Ashok Chavan, I can see that the charge of quid pro quo is a damning one, though I am told that even those relatives  of his who had applied for flats in Adarsh were retired defence personnel and might have been entitled even if the Commission had not held the land as belonginh  not to the army but to the state  government.

This is no defence of Ashiok Chavan though – he finds himself in a lonely spot today because of the inadvisability of his earliest statement dissociating himself with his family members and also seems to have angered senior Congress leaders including Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for issuing negative statements against them.

But as a puzzled senior editor from New Delhi recently asked me, "If the land did not belng to the army, what premise does the case stand on?"

For it is a matter of fact tht Adarsh is not the only housing society where  bureaucrats and politicians have given themselves some largesse and even those politicians who are now baying for the blood of others involved in Adarsh need to be probed to establish if they indeed never benefitted from such privileged allotments anywhere in the city (my information is they did).

The rest, of course, is for the courts to establish.


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