Maharashtra Congress chief calls for truce between CM, predecessors

Monday, November 1, 2010

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI - The president of the Congress party in Maharashtra, Manikrao Thackeray, on Monday, appealed to all state party leaders to refrain from airing allegations and counter-allegations against each other with regard to the Adarsh Society building scam.

Thackeray said the leaders must exercise restraint and show patience till the two-member committee appointed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi submits its report on the issue.

His cautionary advice came in the wake of an exchange of charges between incumbent Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and his predecessor Vilasrao Deshmukh.

While Chavan’s close aides sought to defend him by citing the role of former chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde in clearing and sanctioning the housing project, Deshmukh rubbished the charges, saying he had no idea about the alleged irregularities in the housing society and the responsibility lay with the revenue department then headed by Chavan.

The Chavan camp has also claimed that three former aides of Vilasrao Deshmukh also owned flats in the residential complex and other former CMs, including Sushil Kumar Shinde and Narayan Rane, as well as senior NCP leaders had recommended many names for allotment of flats in the society.

But Deshmukh denied these allegations, saying that he had only cleared the letter of intent in which there were only 20 members, “mostly including defence services people”.

“I had then forwarded it to the revenue department. After that I don’t know what happened as I resigned as chief minister,” he said.

Deshmukh has also pointed a finger at Chavan, saying the entire problem started after the inclusion of civilians as members of the society, although when the file had come to him, the project was meant for retired defence services officials and Kargil heroes and widows.

Asked about the allotment of flats to Chavan’s mother-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Deshmukh told The Indian Express, “As a part of the government, when you are putting conditions to a society to include civilians, being in politics you have to be careful about alloting flats to your relatives.”

The allegations and counter-allegations between the two and their respective camps has prompted Sonia Gandhi to issue a diktat to these state satraps to remain silent till the report’s conclusions are revealed.

The committee probing the controversial project includes Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A.K.Antony.

The 31-storey Adarsh Society in Colaba, Mumbai, has become the catchment area for a massive political controversy.

Former army chiefs, politicians and bureaucrats have all been allotted flats here for a fraction of the market rate.

Records show that two members of Chavan”s family, whom he describes as distant relatives, are among the 104 alottees for Adarsh Society.

The CBI is now investigating the scam. Sitesh Dwivedi (ANI)

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