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Fadnavis finally acts, orders probe against two of his ministers, IAS officer

He made the announcement in the state legislature as its monsoon session ended on Friday.

mumbai Updated: Aug 12, 2017 00:11 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Devnendra Fadnavis,Maharashtra,State Legislature
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, however, turned down the Opposition’s demand to sack housing minister Prakash Mehta and industries minister Subhash Desai.

After facing intense pressure from Opposition parties, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday ordered a probe into allegations against housing minister Prakash Mehta, industries minister Subhash Desai and senior IAS officer Radheshyam Mopalwar.

He made the announcement in the state legislature as its monsoon session ended on Friday.

Allegations against Mehta, a BJP minister, would be probed by the Lokayukta of the state, while an independent probe will be conducted against Desai, a Shiv Sena minister. On the other hand, a special investigation team (SIT) comprising a senior IAS officer and officers from the Economic Offences Wing of the police will conduct investigations into various allegations against Mopalwar.

“The Lokayukta will probe all the allegations against Mehta. Opposition party members or even citizens who have any information about the allegations can hand it over to the Lokayukta,” Fadnavis said in the legislative council.

Mehta is facing a series of allegations, including favouring builders. He was accused of re-allotting redevelopment work of a Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority-owned transit camp at Pant Nagar, Ghatkopar, to a builder, even though the housing authority had cancelled an earlier allotment. He was also accused of directing the administration to club this project with six adjoining slum pockets to turn it into one redevelopment project in Ghatkopar. The project would have meant a windfall for the builder. HT had published a series of stories highlighting the case.

In another case related to MP Mill Compound at Tardeo, Mehta was accused of directing government agencies to transfer floor space index (FSI) available for a slum rehabilitation project to the Tardeo project, which would have benefitted the developer. The Opposition had also raised questions over Mehta’s son and other relatives getting houses in a redeveloped building in Ghatkopar even as the original tenants awaited theirs. Mehta denied all the allegations and had offered to relinquish the housing department if Fadnavis asked him to do so.

Meanwhile, Opposition parties had accused Desai of denotifying a 30,000-acre land earmarked for industrial use in Igatpuri in Nashik district. It had further alleged Desai’s decision benefitted certain builders. Desai, however, defended his decision saying he had done it because the farmers whose land was acquired wanted the same back.

Mopalwar found himself in a controversy after audio tapes containing his alleged conversation with a detective hired by him went viral. It was alleged the conversation revealed bribery that had links to Mantralaya. Fadnavis came under pressure in case of Mopalwar because the latter was heading his ambitious Mumbai-Nagpur expressway project. He first removed Mopalwar as managing director of Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, which is building the expressway, and on Friday ordered a probe against him.

“As some of the allegations are related to financials considerations and some are in the administrative ambit, we have decided to form a joint team,” Fadnavis informed the state Assembly. The Opposition, while raising this issue and citing the probe directed by various central agencies, including the prime minister’s office, had demanded action against the officer. HT had published reports of the conversation and how the private detective, who allegedly recorded the conversation, feared for his life.

Fadnavis told the legislative Assembly the probe against industries minister Subhash Desai will also be conducted by the Lokayukta if he agrees to do so. “We have discussed a probe in the Prakash Mehta case with the Lokayukta and he has taken it up. If he agrees to conduct a probe in the cases against Desai, we will not have a problem in handing them to the Lokayukta,”he said.

Fadnavis, however, turned down the Opposition’s demand to sack Mehta and Desai. He said prima facie there was no substance in the cases and the probe was announced just to clear the air. He said it would set a bad precedent if the government begins sacking ministers merely on the basis of allegations by the Opposition.

Mehta comes from the Gujarati community in Mumbai, which supports the BJP and wields influence, while Desai is a senior Shiv Sena leader and a trusted aide of the Thackeray family. Sources said Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was not keen on any stringent probe against Desai.

The CM said the decisions regarding the MP mill plot in Tardeo were taken by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government between 1999 and 2014. “Even after construction, additional FSI was allotted to the same plot. How can FSI be given in this case? Despite this, as suspicion has been raised, the Lokayukta will probe the allegations,” Fadnavis said.

First Published: Aug 12, 2017 00:02 IST