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Retired IAS officer to probe graft allegations against Maharashtra industries minister Subhash Desai

Desai, a senior Shiv Sena minister, denied any graft or conflict of interest

mumbai Updated: Aug 29, 2017 10:24 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Mumbai news,KP Bakshi,Subhash Desai
(Maharashtra industries minister Subhash Desai)

Under pressure from the Opposition, the Maharashtra government on Monday set up a one-man committee under retired bureaucrat KP Bakshi to inquire into graft allegations against state industries minister Subhash Desai in the denotification of industrial land at Nashik.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government also brought the erstwhile Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government under the net of the inquiry by expanding its scope to look into the denotification of industrial land in estates across Maharashtra over the past 15 years. Significantly, this will also include the tenure of Congress leader Narayan Rane as industries minister between 2010 and 2014 during Congress-NCP regime. The buzz in political circles is that Rane’s move to the BJP is imminent.

“The Bakshi panel will inquire whether the land was denotified as per the rules, regulations and guidelines of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation. The inquiry will probe any conflict of interest by the minister in the decision. Moreover, the inquiry will also focus on whether the MIDC has taken similar decisions to denotify land in the industrial area concerned, as well as any other industrial area in the past 15 years,” a senior state government official said.

Legislators from the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party were pushing for Desai’s resignation, alleging corruption in the denotification of industrial land at Gondedumala and Vadivare villages in Igatpuri taluka of Nashik. They alleged that Desai deliberately took the decisions to favour developers.

Desai, a senior Shiv Sena minister, denied any graft or conflict of interest, saying it was the erstwhile Congress-NCP government that had started the process of denotifying the land parcel when Rajendra Darda and Narayan Rane held the industries portfolio. He added, by the time he took over as minister, the land left with the industries department was fragmented and difficult to put to industrial use due to which his department decided to denotify it and restore it to original owners.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis too defended Desai in the house, but promised to conduct an independent inquiry into the allegations. He, however, did not accept the opposition’s demand for Desai’s resignation.

Bakshi, a 1982 batch IAS officer, retired as additional chief secretary from the home department in November 2016. The state government has granted Bakshi access to any records of the industries department that he may require during the course of the inquiry, as well as the right to summon any officials or employees for questioning.

Opposition leaders, however, slammed the inquiry as eyewash and an attempt to shelter the minister.

The NCP’s Dhananjay Munde, leader of opposition in the state legislative council, said, “There cannot be an independent inquiry while the minister is still in office. The government should conduct a judicial inquiry after asking the minister to resign.” He also added that the BJP-led government is simply evading the issue at hand by extending the inquiry to the past 15 years.

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 10:24 IST