Minister of state for transport Gulabrao Devkar has pleaded innocence in the Rs29-crore Jalgaon housing scam. The NCP leader was the chief of the Jalgaon municipal council in 1997 when the civic body introduced an affordable housing scheme.
On Saturday, Shiv Sena leader and former housing minister Suresh Jain was arrested for his role in the alleged scam. A day later, the Shiv Sena-BJP called for Devkar’s arrest, alleging he was hand-in-glove with Jain. In defence, Devkar blamed his “inexperience” for not seeing through the irregularities. “Then, we were all new councillors. We merely signed on the documents prepared by Jain and a high-powered committee appointed by him,” he said.
Devkar was one of the 91 persons indicted following a probe into the issue by Jalgaon’s former municipal commissioner Pravin Gedam. An FIR was filed in 2006, but arrests began six years later. Devkar denied that he was influencing the probe. “Despite being a minister, I have co-operated with the police… I’m still in Jalgaon to assist them in the probe,” the district guardian minister said.
Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare also called for Devkar’s arrest, and demanded to a probe into all other deals executed by Jain as a minister.
NCP’s state president Madhukar Pichad rejected demands for action against the transport minister. “Why should the party take any action when nothing has been proved,” Pichad asked. Home minister RR Patil dismissed any political motives to Jain’s arrest, but did not comment on the possibility of his partyman’s arrest.