BJP leaders in Maharashtra did not seek collector’s approval in 2002 land deal
When the land purchased did not figure in any of Girish Mahajan’s election affidavits in 2004, 2009 and 2014, he had admitted to ‘oversight’ and had denied that this land belonged to ‘Mahar Watan’ category.mumbai Updated: Nov 03, 2016 10:22 IST
Months after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis put to rest a controversy against his colleague and water resources minister Girish Mahajan over purchase of 5 acres of agriculture land in Jalgaon, an irregularity committed in the deal has been unearthed.
Mahajan, considered to be close to Fadnavis, had landed in trouble barely weeks after another senior minister Eknath Khadse was forced to resign following allegations of corruption. It had been alleged that Mahajan had purchased land in Manpur village, Jalgaon district, categorised as ‘Mahar Watan’ — land the government gave to scheduled caste tillers — without getting the mandatory approval from the collector. Land in the same survey number of around 1.52 hectares had also been purchased in the name of Khadse’s son, Nikhil. These purchases were done way back in 2002.
When the land purchased did not figure in any of Mahajan’s election affidavits in 2004, 2009 and 2014, he had admitted to ‘oversight’ and had denied that this land belonged to ‘Mahar Watan’ category. He had also emphasised that there had been no irregularity in the purchase. Fadnavis too came out in his minister’s defence and said the land was purchased after completing all legal formalities and land register had not categorised this plot as ‘Mahar Watan’.
An email clarification from Jalgaon collector (a copy is with HT) however contradicts this defence. The clarification, which in turn relies on response from local tehsil office, pointed out that land on survey number 121 (land purchased) was not at present categorised as ‘Mahar Watan’ since a law in 1959 had abolished such land categories. However, the sale of such land still required a prior approval from the collector. The local tehsil office also stated that it did not find any records of such an approval ever being sought.
The email response was sent on July 11 from Bhusawal tehsildar office to activist Anjali Damania to her query dated June 29, 2016. While Mahajan had purchased 1.99 hectares of this former ‘Mahar Watan’ land, around 1.52 hectare of land in the same survey number had been purchased in the name of Khadse’s son Nikhil.
“Our email communication with the Jalgaon collector clearly points out that norms were flouted while this land was transferred. This deal was part of a larger purchase where BJP leaders led by Khadse acquired land to set up a private sugar factory after promising farmers’ children jobs in the factory. The land was acquired by misusing power but sugar factory was never set up,’’ said Damania.
Mahajan in a bid to cover up the controversy had returned the land to the farmer but activists and opponents have demanded a further probe. Overall, 31 hectares had been acquired to set up a private sugar factory, Tapi Purna Sugar and Allied Products along with an ethanol plant.
Out of these 31 hectares, 16.39 hectares were brought by Khadse and his kin in their personal capacity while Girish Mahajan purchased just 1.99 hectares.
Both, Mahajan and Fadnavis did not comment on the issue. However, sources close to Mahajan said since the minister had decided to give the land back to the original farmer, this was no longer controversial.