Opposition, farmers and activists have started clamouring for the resignation of Union rural development minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. They are angry about the state shelling out Rs10 lakh to pay the Supreme Court the fine it had imposed because the ex-CM had obstructed police action against the moneylender father of a Congress legislator from Vidarbha.
The opposition and activists demand that Deshmukh be made to pay the fine himself. The Bharatiya Janata Party has even threatened to drag Deshmukh to court. Farmers’ widows in Vidarbha will go on an indefinite strike in protest from February 16.
Deshmukh, who was in Mumbai on Tuesday, refused to comment.
A source close to him said the minister would soon move the Supreme Court to get the ‘caustic’ observations that the bench made against him on December 14, 2010, removed.
Earlier, the high court had imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the state government, which then appealed before the Supreme Court. The apex court raised the fine to Rs10 lakh.
The matter became even more complicated last week when justice AK Ganguly said Deshmukh’s promotion to the rural development ministry was “shameless”.
Reacting to the payment by the state, Opposition leader in legislative council Bhausaheb Phundkar (BJP) said it was a waste of public money. “Deshmukh has been supporting private moneylenders. He dared to call the distressed Vidarbha farmers lazy. We will take him to court if he doesn’t mend his ways.”
Phundkar’s counterpart in the legislative assembly Eknath Khadse told HT the opposition was united in raising the issue in the upcoming budget session. “We will ask the government who gave it the right to use taxpayers’ money for Deshmukh’s illegal act.”
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Bala Nadgaonkar, said, “Paying a fine using public money is illegal. We demand a refund from Deshmukh.”
Faridulha Hassan, RTI activist from Trombay said, “The state is publicly misusing taxpayers’ money.”
Anandini Thakoor, chairperson of city’s H-West Ward Federation, said, “We will agitate against this. It may be a signature campaign or demonstration.”
(With inputs from Prajakta Chavan)