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HC order a setback for BJP

The Bharatiya Janata Party that has been targeting the Congress-led government over corruption has found itself in an embarrassing position with its Mumbai unit president, Raj Purohit, under scanner for his alleged role in the Pune land scam.

mumbai Updated: Feb 23, 2011 01:16 IST
HT Correspondent

The Bharatiya Janata Party that has been targeting the Congress-led government over corruption has found itself in an embarrassing position with its Mumbai unit president, Raj Purohit, under scanner for his alleged role in the Pune land scam.

The Bombay high court on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe role played by Purohit, who was minister of state for urban development between 1996 and 1999, in the scam.

The high court dismissed Purohit’s intervention petition in the case. While Purohit refused to comment, his counsel, Niteen Pradhan, said they would move the Supreme Court.

The high court is hearing a public interest litigation that alleged that forged documents were used to avoid surrendering excess land to the government under the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act between 1976 and 2005.

The high court observed that the probe by former bureaucrat Sudhakar Joshi found flaws in 19 of 20 orders that Purohit had passed in his capacity as an appellate authority.

The order has put the BJP in a spot because the party had nominated Purohit to lead it in the 2012 civic elections.

The development is also likely to expose fissures within the Maharashtra BJP over retaining Purohit as the party’s Mumbai city president.

“It is difficult to reach out to the people with a leader who is facing charges of involvement in a land scam. How will we target the Congress over various scams?” a senior party leader said, requesting anonymity because he did not want to go on record on the issue.

The party leadership is contemplating the next course of action.

Sources said Purohit could be asked to step down. “Our worry is not just Purohit. What if the link reaches other senior Sena-BJP leaders who occupied top positions during the saffron rule?” a party member said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to comment on the issue.

People close to Purohit said he will not resign.

Purohit is known to be a nominee of senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, who has been involved in a power struggle with party leaders, Nitin Gadkari and Vinod Tawde, over a hold on the party’s state unit.

The BJP, however, tried to put up a brave face with senior leader, Eknath Khadse, calling it a political conspiracy. “We are open to any investigation,” Khadse said.

The party’s efforts to blame the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance is unlikely to help because the petition on which the order came was filed by the party’s spokesperson, Madhav Bhandari.

Bhandari said he would comment only after reading the order.