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Reprieve for CM in Mumbai tower scam, for now

india Updated: Nov 01, 2010 08:01 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi

Even as Opposition parties stepped up the demand for Ashok Chavan's resignation, the Maharashtra chief minister seems to have got a reprieve. A two-member Congress panel - comprising Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and defence minister A K Antony - investigating the Adarsh society controversy said on Sunday that they needed more time.

"I will require more time to go through the papers and therefore, it will not be possible for me or Antony to say anything right now. It will require some more time for both of us," Mukherjee said after a late-night meeting with Antony.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi had asked the two to look into the scam on Saturday and submit a report to her. She will take a final call on Chavan - who has offered to resign - after she reads the report.

Congress sources said the decision might come after US President Barack Obama's visit, beginning November 6.

Even as Chavan's fate hangs in the balance, the Congress has trained its guns on members of other parties who were in power and gave clearances to the housing society.

The party has asked the two-member panel to examine the clearances given to the society between 2000 and 2003, when the NDA was in power at the Centre, the JD(U)'s George Fernandes was defence minister and the Shiv Sena's Suresh Prabhu was environment minister.

On March 30, 2000 the Defence Estate Office had sent a letter to the headquarters of Maharashtra and Goa regions saying the land in question was outside the defence boundary and belonged to the state.

The environment ministry had on March 11, 2003 written to the state urban development department saying the proposed construction could be taken up under the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification and that the state-level authority could be approached.

This letter was interpreted as permission to build. Prabhu has a flat in Adarsh society but says he was unaware of how the land was procured.

Mukherjee and Antony will also examine the role of former Congress chief ministers Narayan Rane, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde, all of whom are vying for Chavan's post.

Reacting to media reports that they had recommended nominees for flats in Adarsh society, Union ministers Deshmukh and Shinde and state revenue minister Rane denied any involvement.

"It's a conspiracy to defame me," Deshmukh said. Shinde said the clearances given during his regime were legal.