Chief Minister Ashok Chavan finds himself at the centre of the controversy surrounding Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society at Colaba. One of the flats in the 31-storey tower, which was allegedly built in violation of environmental and building norms, was allotted to Chavan’s mother-in-law Bhagwati Sharma.
While Chavan did not deny that his mother-in-law had been a member of Adarsh, he said: “The question is over ownership of the land, which is being ascertained. If it was a state government plot and was allotted to any society, any individual can become a member.”
The Revenue Department has submitted a report that the land belonged to the state but was in possession of the defence authorities.
Chavan said he didn’t know if his relatives had flats in a housing society as they would have sought membership in their individual capacities.
Sharma passed away in July.
Chavan’s link to the society could prove to be a political embarrassment for the ruling Congress. Questions could be raised over a conflict of interest since Chavan heads the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the development authority for the Colaba-Nariman Point area.
MMRDA had on September 16 this year handed over the occupation certificate to the society. The Navy has alleged that the certificate was given despite security concerns raised by it.
The society is also under scrutiny following allegations that members got the plot after they promised to build houses for war veterans and widows but eventually allotted the flats to politicians, bureaucrats and Army and Navy commanders.
The society’s promoters have denied all charges.
The society is being probed by the defence and environment ministries, as well as the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Sources said Chavan’s mother-in-law’s name was a late addition to the members’ list.
Other politicians who own flats in Adarsh include former environment minister Suresh Prabhu, former MP Shriniwas Patil, former speaker of the Assembly Babasaheb Kupekar, Nationalist Congress Party MLA Jitendra Awhad and Congress leader Kanhaiyalal Gidwani. The bureaucrats and their relatives who own flats include former Chief Secretary D. Sankaran’s son Sanjoy, former civic chief Jairaj Phatak’s son Kanishka and Transport Secretary CS Sangitrao’s son Ranjit.
A close aide of a senior Congress minister is also on the list of beneficiaries.
The Opposition alleged that other Congress ministers have benami flats in the society.