From Maharashtra CM’s aide to ‘nuisance’: What went wrong for minister Prakash Mehta?
The verdict is still out on whether Mehta will be asked to go or whether he will get demoted during the upcoming cabinet reshuffleUpdated: Aug 03, 2017 15:36 IST
When chief minister Devendra Fadnavis took charge of Maharashtra in 2014, he chose Ghatkopar legislator Prakash Mehta as his housing minister. This was seen as a sign that Mehta was one of few who were close to Fadnavis.
Two-and-a-half years later, Mehta has not only lost the CM’s favour, but may now become the second member of the Maharashtra cabinet to be ousted over graft charges, the first being revenue minister Eknath Khadse.
The verdict is still out on whether Mehta will be asked to go or whether he will get demoted during the upcoming cabinet reshuffle. The final decision will be taken by the party’s top brass in Delhi. But, it’s clear that Fadnavis is unlikely to go out of his way to defend the minister.
Mehta has been accused of involvement in irregular land deals, in which government norms were flouted and certain contractors favoured. Both cases fly in the face of the Fadnavis government’s claim of being transparent.
But, even before these allegations surfaced, the CM had written off Mehta.
“The CM has been upset with how Mehta functions for sometime now. It started with the minister sitting on files and not bothering to clear the rules on the new real estate act. These allegations are a huge embarrassment to the CM and prove how inefficient Mehta is. If the allegations against him gather more steam, he will either be asked to go or he will be given a side portfolio, ‘’ said a senior party minister.
Mehta was accused of misleading Fadnavis and the housing department in connection with a slum redevelopment project in Tardeo. The minister allegedly favoured a developer and sought to give him additional building rights. In a more recent case, Mehta was accused of overturning a 2012 government decision to revoke the allotment of a state housing agency plot to a developer. This means a developer, who had earlier been rapped over his poor performance, has been handed the slum redevelopment project on a platter.
What may work in Mehta’s defence is his political significance. He belongs to the Gujarati community in Mumbai, which has stood firmly behind the BJP over the past few years.
Unlike Khadse, there is no evidence of graft or quid pro quo in either case. Fadnavis has maintained that he will not play into the hands of the Opposition and sack his ministers without proof of wrongdoing.
After all, senior ministers in the cabinet — including Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde — were accused of irregularities in awarding contracts and were shielded.
But, neither of them had either misled Fadnavis or ‘been mistaken of his acquiescence’ while clearing project. Also, their decisions did not go against the opinion of their own departments or favour a particular private firm or contractor.
More importantly, they were smart enough to steer clear of similar controversies and hence got second chances.
It seems that Mehta may not be as smart or as lucky.
First Published: Aug 03, 2017 15:36 IST