While only future investigations can unravel the truth behind the raging inferno that engulfed Mantralaya last afternoon, the Opposition already has made up its mind that the fire was not an accident.
The Maharashtra secretariat building at Nariman Point houses the all-important offices of the state government, including the seats of the chief minister, his deputy and other ministers and departments.
The fourth floor, where the fire broke out, houses the state government’s Urban Development Ministry, which, according to sources, is home to important land records. This fact fuelled a sabotage angle to the incident, with sources in the media claiming that the fire had destroyed several important documents related to the Adarsh Housing society scam, in which several ministers in the state’s government are facing inquiry. The Opposition happily added fuel to these controversies.
“It’s clearly not an accident — we at BJP cannot just take this as just an accident. There needs to be an inquiry into the matter. Let the real reason behind the fire be disclosed,” said Madhav Bhandari, BJP’s state spokesperson.
State BJP chief Sudhir Mungantiwar demanded an inquiry into the fire incident, saying he suspected it to be a conspiracy on the part of the Democratic Front government to destroy all important documents that could expose the misdeeds of the state government. He also held the state government responsible for “mismanagement” during the fire at Mantralaya.
This is the first time that the state’s principal building and emblem has been caught in raging flames, and members of the Opposition happily swooped in on the opportunity to pass stinging statements on the ruling alliance’s ineffectuality.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Rahul Narvekar said, “If the most important building of the state cannot be saved, then I fear if the government would be able to save any corner or part of the state.”
He added that the timing of the fire had made party members suspicious. “The timing gives rise to suspicion — at a time when the government is mired in controversies and allegations of land grabbing and land scams, a fire breaks out in the very department that keeps files and records for the same. This does raise questions in minds,” he said.
The Opposition also demanded for a judicial inquiry into the conflagration, saying that all other investigative authorities were controlled by the government. “The CBI, CID and every other investigating department in the state is in the hands of the Centre or the state. Expecting them to carry out impartial investigations would be futile. We expect a judicial investigation and an inquiry into the same by a retired judge, so that the facts are revealed,” said Narvekar.
Members of the Opposition also expressed fear that efforts may be made to tamper evidence, and forensic teams should be summoned soon to the spot to collect evidence before it is removed.
(With inputs from Priyankka Deshpande)