As Central and state agencies struggled to control the oil spill off the city's coast, a political drama unfolded in Mantralaya on Monday as Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and his deputy Chhagan Bhujbal chose to review the situation independently of each other.
A couple of hours after Chavan flew in a helicopter with Congressman and Environment Minister Suresh Shetty, some bureaucrats, Coast Guard and port officials to assess the damage, Bhujbal took his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) colleague and Minister of State for Environment Sachin Ahir on a similar helicopter survey.
Bhujbal convened a press conference in his office immediately after Shetty finished addressing the media on the disaster. He furnished information that he procured independently from state and Coast Guard officials.
When asked why he did not accompany Chavan on the survey, Bhujbal said he was not invited. "I was not invited to the disaster control meeting [held in the afternoon] either," he said.
An upset Bhujbal said he might not have been invited because Chavan's chopper was too crowded. "I'm told there were too many people in the chopper. There was a minister, officials from various departments…," he said.
Chavan was not available for comment. His office refused to comment.
A senior Mantralaya official said Ahir was upset because, as junior minister for environment, he expected to be kept in the loop by Chavan.
"Bhujbal and Ahir chose to give Chavan a fitting reply. They arranged for a helicopter and asked officials [barring those present at Shetty's briefing] to accompany them," the official said, requesting anonymity.
A source close to Bhujbal told Hindustan Times that he deputy chief minister would raise the issue at an appropriate time. "NCP ministers have always had several grievances against Chavan. This is an addition to the list," said the source.