The former Maharashtra Governor OP Mehra claimed that he was instrumental in securing the resignation of the then chief minister, AR Antulay in January 1982 for his alleged involvement in the controversial cement scam that doomed the political career of the union minister for a longer period.
Eighty nine-year old Mehra, who also served as the chief air marshal of the country, was here on Saturday to attend a programme of airforce maintenance command. While sharing his experience of those troubled period with local media persons, the retired chief air marshal disclosed that this had left Antulay fuming and he had allegedly used his political clout with the then prime minister Indira Gandhi for shunting him out from the state. He was subsequently shifted to Rajasthan.
"I sent a comprehensive report to the union government about the scam when the media exposed it. Later I also sought an explanation from Antulay about it, “he recalled. The cement scandal was brought to light in a series of media exposes. During the period, cement was a scarce commodity and commanded a premium over official price in black market. As its quota used to be allocated by the government, the then chief minister had taken donations from the beneficiaries for a private trust.
When the matter was brought to the notice of Indiraji, she took a strong exception over the development. “I had studied the constitutional provisions and straightway asked Antulay to resign from the post as his name figured in the scandal. I was also acting on the basis of an uncommon commodity, called common sense, “he quipped. This had led to a heated argument between the two. He was not ready to quit the office. When the noose started tightening on him, Antulay tried playing a political game by tendering resignation and rushing to the union capital. “However, I did my job by accepting his resignation and within half an hour the news was broadcast on the All India Radio. Probably Antulay was not prepared for such prompt action,” he said.
Antulay did not take it in the right spirit. Irked by the turn of events, he doled a verbal threat to Mehta to remove him from Maharashtra. And within few months, Mehra was shunted out to Rajasthan.
Antulay was became the chief minister of Maharashtra in June 1980 and quit the post in the wake of the cement scam in January 1982. And the rests were the history.