The promoter of the Adarsh Housing Society, the late Kanhaiyyalal Gidwani, was a party hopper, politically and literally. On many a New Year eve, I saw him going from one five-star hotel to another and probably a third. Simultaneously, he moved from one faction to another in the Congress and then from the Congress to the Shiv Sena, then back to the Congress then again to the Shiv Sena before ending his days with the Congress. When I asked him about this, he said, “The Shiv Sena needs people like me. It has limited human resources. There are too many of my kind in the Congress. I am not likely to get anything from this party.”
He was wrong. He got much from the Congress, even if not electorally. Without the Congress, Gidwani would not have been able to fulfil his dream of a posh address in South Bombay. I recall he used to have a permanent room booked at the Ritz Hotel, where he wined and dined with the media and also used to make and break fortunes at elections to the legislative council. He once unsuccessfully got after me to persuade my aged, widowed aunt to sell him her prime flat in Churchgate because he was embarrassed having to live in his own apartment at Worli, where all former ministers and MLAs resided. He wanted proximity to the ministers’ bungalows opposite Mantralaya. In a few years he got it--from the Congress, and in such a cynical show of power play and greed that the Adarsh Society kept adding floors to accommodate every official who sanctioned violations of the law in return for an apartment in the building.
Now with the Bombay High Court ordering the demolition of the building, in which politicians, including those of the ruling BJP, have more than one apartment, I feel sorry for the army widows in whose name the house was built. Many owners of the apartments are politicians and businessmen, but there are a few army veterans who have sunk all their savings in it and they are the ones who are most likely to suffer.
There have been precedents to this. I remember the court had given orders for demolishing the top floors of the Pratibha Building, which was constructed in violation of the Floor Space Index regulations. The Campa Cola Society is facing a similar issue. The Bombay High Court has given 12 weeks for appeal against its order. But I believe the society could be turned into a transit accommodation for the army personnel or a hostel for army widows who have nowhere else to go.
On the flip side, most of the apartment owners are resource-rich politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen and there could be great justice served if they are made to part with their apartments with no compensation at all - though how much that will affect their overall finances one does not know. More likely, very little.
Because Gidwani, who was sent to jail for a period of time after the scam broke, succumbed to the shock early in the scandal, it is difficult to speak of his cynicism and greed that corrupted even clerks and IAS officers as well as ministers and chief ministers into violating the laws with impunity. Former chief minister Ashok Chavan, who, as revenue minister, formulated a 40-60 allocation of houses in the building between the government and the army, is the most visible victim who didn’t gain anything at all--his relatives, army veterans themselves, returned the apartments soon after the scam broke. But that is only appropriate. There must be equal justice for all.