The Opposition disrupted the proceedings of the House for the second consecutive day, this time targeting the PWD minister, Chhagan Bhujbal, for accepting Rs2.5 crore by way of donations from a business conglomerate for his family trust — Bhujbal Foundation.
As soon as the House assembled on Tuesday, the Opposition started shouting slogans against Bhujbal and staged a walkout.
Two MNS members, Prakash Bhoir and Nitin Bhonsale, raised banners against the senior NCP leader and insisted on his resignation.
Bhoir and Bhonsale even drew parallels between Bhujbal and former chief minister AR Antulay, who had to eventually resign after being charged with collecting donations for the Indira Gandhi Pratibha Pratishthan.
Bala Nandgaonkar, MNS leader in the House, even served an adjournment notice to the Speaker seeking a debate on the issue and demanded a clarification from the government.
As the Opposition mounted pressure on the government, the speaker suspended the two MNS members for the day and adjourned the house.
When the house re-assembled, Eknath Khadse, the leader of the Opposition, urged the Speaker to reconsider his decision to suspend MNS members. “We will ensure that such incidents are not repeated, but the government should also not behave in an insensitive manner on issues concerning the people,” he said.
Nandgaonkar said the allegations against Bhujbal were serious as his foundation is believed to have received huge donations in lieu of favours.
“The misdeeds of former chief minister Antulay were exposed by the then Opposition leader Sharad Pawar. Now, Pawar should apply the same yardstick against his party colleague and ask Bhujbal to resign on moral grounds,” Nandgaonkar said.
He alleged that it was a conflict of interest as Bhujbal had taken huge donations after awarding major infrastructure contracts to the business conglomerate. The minister was instrumental in leasing out Mumbai University's prime land of 7,000 sqm near Hyatt Regency in Mumbai to the infrastructure firm on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis for an infrastructure project, Nandgaonkar said.
Bhujbal said the donation was accepted from the company for the Nashik Festival, an annual fest organised by Bhujbal’s trust with the help of other corporate houses. “Indiabulls was the main sponsor of the programme while other corporate houses had also given donations for the festival. Not a single paisa was used by the Bhujbal family from that amount.”
He refuted any irregularities in giving the Mumbai University land to the business house for building a central library, and said it was a transparent procedure.
The PWD had received a proposal to this effect from the higher education department. Later it was referred to the high-power infrastructure committee, headed by the chief minister, who later approved it.