In a major embarrassment to the Maharashtra government and public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal, President Pratibha Patil has refused to inaugurate the refurbished and rebuilt Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi.
Patil's decision seems to stem from her desire to avoid any controversy at the end of her tenure, as the BJP has alleged that members of Bhujbal's family benefitted from the tenders that were awarded to build the Maharashtra Sadan. Sources said that the President has declined the invitation citing prior commitments. The state government and Bhujbal, in particular, were very keen that the President, who herself is a Maharashtrian, should inaugurate the building.
Senior BJP leader Kirit Somaiyya has alleged gross irregularity in the tendering process, and in the manner in which the work was indirectly passed on by the original contractor KS Chamankar to companies owned by the Bhujbal family. [See box]
"I am very happy with the President's decision. I am however sad with the way Prithviraj Chavan, Sharad Pawar and Chaggan Bhujbal were adamant on the President inaugurating the project, just so it gets legitimacy," Somaiyya said.
Somaiyya said he planned to expose how the Bhujbal family and its affiliates ran over 300 companies, in which over Rs. 3,000 crore were allegedly invested over time.
On his part, public works minister Chaggan Bhujbal maintained that there was no loss to the state exchequer. "We need to evaluate if the work done by the contractor is up to the mark or not," Bhujbal said.
Bhujbal said it was the state government that put off the inauguration. "Some things, including work on water connection, are yet to be finished. We decided to complete the work and then inaugurate the building," he said.