Finding himself in the dock after rejecting the two-member inquiry commission report on the controversial scam involving Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is on a damage control exercise. One of the corrective measures the CM will introduce involves doing away with discretionary powers enjoyed by his ministers and officials.
Chavan is facing the heat for the cabinet’s decision to snub the findings, which blame three former CMs and other ministers in his cabinet for patronising the society that usurped flats meant for Kargil War widows and defence personnel. The CM says that his government will take administrative action wherever needed. “The discretion given to ministers to take a decision will have to be stopped,” said the CM during an informal chat with a group of journalists on Saturday.
For many years, ministers and bureaucrats have used the powers vested in them to allot government land and plots as per their convenience under the ‘CM quota’. According to the Urban Land Ceiling Act Regulations, 10 per cent of the flats developed under the act were for the CM to give away to needy citizens.
However, those close to the CM ended up getting the apartments, while the ones that actually required it, were left in the waiting list. Before the Adarsh controversy broke out, successive chief ministers and ministers in charge of the revenue department have given away government plots as per their convenience. CMs have used their discretionary powers to sanction flats available in buildings constructed under this act. The act was repealed in 2008, but construction on some of the plots under the act is still ongoing.
Similarly, ministers and several CMs have used their powers while sanctioning flats available in MHADA buildings under the 2 per cent quota, a reservation under which officials are allowed to allocate the low-cost flats to those who cannot afford it. A bunch of influential politicians usurped prime government land in the name of educational institutions and other purposes, under the guise of public interest. Among these violations, Adarsh is perhaps a pioneer a BEST plot adjacent to it was attached to the original plot for the Colaba housing society. Former CMs Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan gave approvals for this amalgamation, and it is a never-before-seen usurpation.
When asked why he took eight months to table the report when his government was going to reject it, the CM simply said, “We were grappling with the action-taken report (ATR). We could also have tabled it with the Speaker of the state assembly and Chairman of the state council. But, we decided to table it in the Legislature.” When asked if the rejection of the Adarsh report would impact the Congress-NCP’s performance in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Chavan said he was not aware how the effect would be seen.
AAP damages ruling party’s prospects
During his freewheeling chat with journalists, the CM was asked about the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its possible foray in the state. “The depth of the defeat in Delhi is surprising. The margin of defeat of Sheila Dixit surprised many,” said the CM, who has been closely associated with political developments in Delhi. “So many factors came together, especially inflation and the negative reports about the government,” he added.
The CM felt the AAP wouldn’t be able to have as much of an impact in the state as in Delhi, since constituencies there were smaller, unlike in Maharashtra. But, he agreed that the AAP had damaged the ruling party’s proposition. Meanwhile, the AAP has accepted outside support from the Congress and its leader Arvind Kejriwal is preparing to be sworn in as the CM of Delhi on December 26.