Shiv Sena’s Ravindra Waikar, the minister of state for housing, is the latest in the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet to face allegations of land grab, misuse of power and conflict of interest in cornering a 20-acre plot in city’s green lung, Aarey Milk Colony. The chief minister has called for a report on the issue.
In an interview to HT, Waikar refuted all allegations and dared the government to conduct an inquiry against him. Waikar said he found no wrong doing in getting his family or close friends involved in trusts or organisations working on government projects.
Excerpts from the interview
Q. It has been found that your family members are a part of the organisation that operates the gymnasium in Aarey Colony, which is built using government funds. Also, a floor on the gymnasium has been illegally constructed. Is this not a case of nepotism and misuse of power?
If one wants to do some good work for the society, one will take his family and close friends along. My family and friends are assisting me in the work I am doing for the people. There is no illegal construction in the gymnasium. I can prove it. I will provide relevant documents once I return to Mumbai on Tuesday.
Q. Another allegation against you is that you have tweaked rules to get contracts for slum-redevelopment projects for your companies, that, too, near the Jogeshwari caves where construction activities are prohibited. Is it not a case of conflict of interest?
I resigned from that company in 2011. So, I am not with it anymore. The only link is that I am waiting for my pending dues to come from the company. There are poor people living near the caves, who cannot be denied homes just because the surrounding area is a no-development zone. The project is being carried out by complying with the rules and existing laws.
Q. You convened a meeting of the slum-redevelopment projects, in which you allegedly have stakes, at your official government residence.
I have headed several meetings on different issues at my residence. I see no wrong if the meetings are for public good.
Q. Why do you think Congress city chief Sanjay Nirupam is targeting you? Is there any connection in the timing of these allegations and the upcoming civic elections in Mumbai?
Nirupam has made all the allegations to divert attention from the ongoing uproar in his party over the resignation of Gurudas Kamath. To save his skin, he cooked up the false stories against me. Also, he wanted publicity before the civic elections.
Q. The chief minister has sought a report on the allegations of illegal construction in the gymnasium in the Aarey Colony and there could be inquiry into it. What do you have to say on this?
Let anyone carry out the inquiry, be it the chief minister or any one in the city. I am not bothered, as all the allegations are false and factually incorrect. The media has already showed that the allegations are baseless.
Q. No one from your party has come to your support so far.
I don’t think the party has to get involved in this. I am capable of handling this single-handedly.
Q. Will the entire episode, which has tarnished your and your party’s image, hurt Sena’s prospects in the elections?
Absolutely not. The allegations are rather bringing all good works I have done to the notice of people, which will only help us. I learnt that people in my area are angry over the false allegations.
Q. Are you planning to take any action against Nirupam?
Yes. I am going through all legal options available to me. I will take the decision after consulting my party. I am not going to spare Nirupam.