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At loggerheads

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has decided to get three government projects, collectively worth Rs 8,476 crore, examined by independent consultants.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2009 00:29 IST
Dharmendra Jore

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has decided to get three government projects, collectively worth Rs 8,476 crore, examined by independent consultants.

The three projects are the Mantralaya makeover, the redevelopment of the government staff colony in Bandra (E) and new toll schemes for Mumbai’s entry points.

The move is an intensification of Chavan’s cold war with his deputy Chhagan Bhujbal, who had pushed for these schemes. The projects had been proposed before the state elections in October, but Chavan put them on hold saying the new government would decide on them.

On Wednesday, Chavan said he would not vacate the stay. “These proposals remain stalled. Newspapers wrote reams of pages questioning the schemes’ transparency. I will appoint independent consultants or financial institutions to review the projects so that all doubts are cleared,” Chavan said. “After all, it’s all about money. We must know the amount the state would get through these projects.”

Countered Bhujbal: “It’s a very good idea. I expect Chavan to review not only my department, or schemes proposed by it, but also other departments and their major schemes.”

Chavan has been on a collision course with Bhujbal since August when he stayed the Rs 1,376-crore Mantralaya makeover and the Rs 5,000-crore Bandra colony redevelopment. The Rs 2,100-crore toll scheme was next.

The conflict between the two political heavyweights resurfaced when the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) moved a proposal recently before its political boss, Chavan, to construct a 100-storey skyscraper on land owned by the Public Works Department (PWD), which Bhujbal still heads.

Hindustan Times was the first to report the conflict between the two (the edition of December 16).

Under the PWD plan, this land, neighbouring Sachivalaya Gymkhana, would have a tower housing the offices of political parties and government establishments.

Bhujbal said his proposals were transparent. “We finalised the proposals after studying them thoroughly. We have ensured enough revenue for the state,” he said.

When asked why the PWD wanted to implement such projects on a build-operate-transfer basis, Bhujbal said his department did not get enough money in the state budget to implement them on its own. “We will be able to manage such projects if we get over Rs 10,000 crore per year,” he added.

The PWD hopes to redo the Mantralaya precinct along international standards. The old Mantralaya building, and the administrative building opposite it, will be altered as per the plan. The neighbouring 50 ministerial bungalows would be pulled down to erect a new set of buildings. Indiabulls nearly bagged the project with a bid of Rs 1,376 crore, but Chavan’s disapproval has put it on hold.

In Bandra, the five-decade-old government colony would make way for new structures housing government employees, helipads, a super-specialty government hospital, administration building, community halls, a clubhouse and a shopping arcade.