The Maharahstra governor gave permission to the CBI on Thursday to prosecute top Congress leader Ashok Chavan for his alleged role in the Adarsh housing society scam that became a symbol of corruption in the state and forced him to resign as chief minister in 2010.
Chavan alleged the ruling BJP’s “vindictive attitude” was behind governor C Vidyasagar Rao’s grant of approval to the investigating agency, which is probing alleged malpractices in construction and allocation of flats in the Mumbai high-rise, with homes meant for war widows going cheaply to politicians and military officers.
The Congress leader was forced to step down from the chief minister’s post in November 2010 after accusations emerged that three of his relatives had been given apartments in the 31-storey building, a scandal that contributed to the party’s defeat in state polls four years later with a BJP-Shiv Sena combine taking power.
“The grant of sanction for prosecution and the CBI’s decision to move the application has been done at the behest of the BJP,” he said.
In December 2013, the then governor K Sankaranarayanan had refused permission to the CBI to prosecute Chavan in the scam, leaving the agency with no choice but to close the case against the lawmaker.
The UPA-appointed governor resigned after he was transferred to Mizoram by the Narendra Modi government in August 2014 and Rao replaced him in Maharashtra.
“The Governor had sought the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers and was advised by the Council of Ministers to grant the sanction,” an official statement from Raj Bhavan, the governor’s official residence, said on Thursday.
A CAG report five years ago showed the building erected on army land and originally created to help servicemen, ex-servicemen and their widows received several concessions ignoring rules, while officials and politicians instrumental in decision-making became members of the society.
The CBI approached the governor last year seeking his consent to prosecute Chavan after it got “fresh evidence” against him in the case, following which Rao wrote to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to get the opinion of his council of ministers.
Fadnavis maintained the government had sought the view of the state advocate general and he clearly said “such permission should be and could be granted”.
Legal experts say if Chavan, now a Lok Sabha member, is convicted in the case and sentenced to more than two years in prison, he can be disqualified as an MP and barred from contesting the 2019 general elections.
The ban can continue for six more years even after acquittal which could put Chavan— one of two Congress MPs elected from Maharashtra in the 2014 polls— out of the reckoning and deal a blow to the party that is relying on his organisational and electoral skills to attempt a comeback.