As more and more allegations are being made against two newly inducted ministers -- labour minister Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar and tourism minister Jaykumar Rawal—by the Opposition parties, the Devendra Fadnavis led government seems to have decided to brazen it out.
According to the party sources, Chief Minister Fadnavis would leave it to the ongoing legal process into these allegations instead of taking any action. The ministers would be dropped from the cabinet if found guilty in the same. Fadnavis has insisted that he would not shield the guilty.
Rawal was one of the directors of a cooperative bank in Dhule that went bankrupt due to mismanagement by its board. The bank had given loans to relatives and family firms of directors in violation of banking norms.
The case was probed by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) but was later transferred to the CID just three days after the former declared its intention to arrest the directors.
Rawal has termed the entire episode as political vendetta by the former Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance while in power. The CID has almost given a clean chit to two directors and chargesheeted other 25. These two directors happen to be Rawal and another BJP MLA, Vijay Kumar Gavit.
Patil-Nilangekar is an accused in a CBI chargesheet in a Rs 49 crore Non Performing Asset loan account taken from Union Bank of India and Bank of Maharashtra. He has been charged with fudging the mortgage deed papers and substituting the land promised as collateral with another plot of lesser size and value which was not in his name. He, has, termed the allegations as misleading and the NPA loan account case, a result of political vendetta by his grandfather—former chief minister Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar who was also his political rival. He has also said his role was limited to that of a guarantor and he has moved a discharge plea in the case.
The opposition has accused Fadnavis of misleading the assembly while replying to their allegations against the two ministers. They say they have more evidence to support their allegations. Whether the two ministers are guilty of wrongdoing or not will be decided in the ongoing legal process. It has however put Fadnavis in a difficult spot.
The question being asked is: Why were they picked as ministers if they were already facing allegations?
The two ministers were selected with certain political motive. Rawal was brought in to fill the void from north Maharashtra after former revenue minister Eknath Khadse quit following a series of allegations. Patil-Nilangekar was inducted as a Maratha from central Maharashtra (Marathwada) where Fadnavis wanted to project a young Maratha leader. The CM is not comfortable with two existing BJP leaders from the region, rural development minister Pankaja Munde and state BJP president Raosaheb Danve. Both the new ministers are young and are seen as part of Fadnavis camp. In their defence, it is being pointed out that the cases against both the ministers were lodged during the previous Congress-NCP regime and hence could be out of political motive.
With the government being firm on its stand, it would depend on the Opposition to put pressure on Fadnavis if they want any action against the ministers. The ongoing session of the legislature has given them an opportunity.
But it’s not an easy task for the Congress-NCP considering the fact that several of their leaders themselves are facing allegations. A senior BJP minister has even issued veiled threat that more than 30 of their legislators have cases pending against them related to cooperative and education bodies. So, who will blink first?