Even as the Congress sharpened its attack against two young ministers in the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet facing allegations, the BJP is planning to brazen its way through the Opposition strikes in the state legislature.
On Friday, Leader of Opposition, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil moved a breach of privilege motion notice against the chief minister for his reply last week in the debate on corruption against his ministers.
Vikhe Patil’s notice states that Fadnavis’ reply pertaining to charges against labour minister Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar and tourism minister Jaykumar Rawal were not factual with an intention to mislead the Assembly. Fadnavis in his reply had given a clean chit to both the ministers but documents from the Opposition now show that his defence is unlikely to stand scrutiny.
That’s one of the reasons the CM agreed to review the stance on Thursday, saying if new evidence proved the ministers guilty they will not be shielded.
Despite this, sources in the BJP told HT that in the aftermath of former senior minister Eknath Khadse’s ouster, the party was in no mood to give in to “media trials”. And, the CM at the risk of losing his moral high ground is expected to point at the ongoing trials in both the cases to decide the fate of his ministers.
“The chief minister feels that unless a minister has been proven guilty of misusing his office or indulging in corruption after induction in the government, there is no need to sacrifice him. In the case of both Patil-Nilangekar and Rawal, the cases are old and have been dug up by their political rivals. We will let the law take its own course in these cases,’’ said a senior BJP minister.
While Nilangekar is named in a CBI charge sheet, Rawal faces proceedings in a CID investigation but has been given a door open for quiet exit from the case. The CID has charge sheeted 26 directors but not Rawal.
The BJP is also likely to use a 2014 Supreme Court judgment, given by a five judge bench that said disqualification of those who are charge sheeted or have criminal proceedings pending against them as ministers is outside the ambit of law and remains prerogative of the chief minister or the Prime Minister to take the call.
“There are no guidelines, precedents or existing laws in such a case. The judgment makes it clear that it is the right of the CM to take the decision. However, the judgment, had advised the PM and CM to not induct charge sheeted people in their cabinets,‘’said a senior law official.
Fadnavis is largely expected to leave it to the criminal justice system to decide his ministers’ fate at the risk of losing moral high ground.
However, the Congress has alleged that since BJP came to power in October 2014, the probe is slower. Rawal got a respite in the CID probe in the Rawal co-operative bank scam even though a former SIT and audit report had nailed the director’s role in the scam. And, the CBI, despite a charge sheet has made no progress in the Nilangekar case for a nearly a year. Nilangekar’s discharge plea is pending before the court and could offer the minister an escape route.