The Congress on Monday told its Maharashtra leaders accused of involvement in the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam to stop issuing statements.
The gag order came after several leaders blamed each other for the scam in which defence land was obtained to build flats for Kargil veterans and widows, but the flats were allotted to politicians, bureaucrats and army and navy commanders. Environmental norms were also allegedly flouted in constructing the 31-storey tower.
Chief minister Ashok Chavan, whom the party high command seems to have decided to replace, fell in line with the directive, declining to respond to predecessor and Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s charge that he was responsible for the irregularities as then revenue minister.
A senior Congress leader confirmed the party had issued a gag order because Union ministers Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony were probing the case. “So much has been said by the leaders. It is complicating matters at a stage when the party is doing some damage control by trying to blame the National Democratic Alliance for giving clearances to the society before 2003,” said the leader.
Deshmukh told CNN-IBN on Monday, “The then revenue minister Ashok Chavan called the society members and asked them to change the byelaws, and 40% of civilians were allowed to be members of the society.”
Asked about the files being cleared during his chief ministership, Deshmukh said, “What I signed was the letter of intent and not the final order. The prerogative of clearing everything is with the revenue department. I signed in good faith whatever recommendations were made by the revenue department.”
Congress Lok Sabha member from Mumbai Sanjay Nirupam demanded an inquiry into the NDA ministers’ role in the scam. “George Fernandes was defence minister when the land was transferred (to Adarsh) and the Shiv Sena’s Suresh Prabhu headed the ministry that gave the environmental clearance to the coastal land,” he said.