The cash-for-vote scandal in Amravati took a curious turn on Tuesday when President Pratibha Patil's son and local MLA Raosaheb Shekhawat was interrogated by the police.
The Amravati police had seized Rs 1 crore from a car which was coming from Nagpur on February 12, ahead of the civic elections. The seizure of cash has left the Congress embarrassed. The unaccounted money was hidden in the luggage compartment of the car which was driven by one Prakash Masram and accompanied by Ashish Bodhankar, the PA of the Maharashtra minister of state for finance Rajendra Mulak, a close confidante of chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
The money, it was believed, was sent with the help of a Nagpur-based businessman for "bribing voters." However, the MPCC later claimed that it was party fund-meant to be distributed among "poor" Congress candidates in the fray for smooth electioneering. "The party sent the money to Shekhawat for distribution among the party candidates," said Ganesh Patil, the MPCC general secretary.
The opposition, particularly the BJP, has pounced on the issue and has been vociferously alleging that the money was sent to be distributed among the voters "to lure them to vote for Congress in the civic elections." The issue was even taken seriously by the state election commission that served notices to Shekhawat and Mulak. The scandal dealt a severe blow to the party and Shekhawat's image.
The police asked Shekhawat over 20 questions regarding the origin of money, its purpose and the mode of payment when the RBI norms stipulate more than Rs 20,000 transaction should be carried out by cheque during the interrogation.
Shekhawat answered all questions through his lawyer, who later claimed that the investigators were satisfied with the answers. He reportedly answered that the elections were on February 16 and the cash was sent on February 12 by the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee due to time constraints. He also said that the origin of the cash is known only to the MPCC and he was not involved in it.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Amitesh Kumar, commissioner of police (CP), Amravati informed that Shekhawat, Ganesh Patil and Amravati city Congress chief Vasantrao Saurkar were summoned on Tuesday for an interrogation. Shekhawat was questioned by the investigation agency for over an hour.
"We have also summoned the Maharashtra minister Mulak in this connection. He, however, could not make a point to reach here because of his pre-occupation with scheduled programme. He has been asked to present at the CP office on February 28 for the purpose," Kumar further added.
The car, which was carrying the cash, was released by the court on Tuesday but the cash was not given to the party.