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I have cleared more files than any other CM: Prithviraj Chavan

In a freewheeling chat, Prithviraj Chavan sought to shed the ‘slow’ tag once and for all with this claim yesterday, and threw down the gauntlet for anyone to prove otherwise. He also spoke about the various controversies dogging the state government, Congress’ revival and the BJP’s weaknesses in the upcoming state elections

If there is one allegation that has dogged Prithviraj Chavan’s four-year tenure as Maharashtra chief minister, it is that he is slow be it in terms of decision-making or file clearance. His own Congress colleagues, those from party ally NCP, the opposition and even staff from departments under him have complained rather publicly about his lethargic pace, without getting an apt rejoinder.

Chavan used the opportunity to hit back at his detractors, both within and outside the party, and declare that the Congress would bounce back from its LS defeat. File pic
Chavan used the opportunity to hit back at his detractors, both within and outside the party, and declare that the Congress would bounce back from its LS defeat. File pic

That last part, however, changed yesterday. In a freewheeling chat with select journalists, Chavan hit out hard at his detractors, both within the party and outside it, and sought to prove them wrong on being slow by presenting facts and figures. He also spoke about raging controversies such as Maharashtra Sadan, the irrigation scam and Natwar Singh’s revelations.

Hare, not tortoise
“I have cleared more files than any other CM,” Chavan said, adding that anybody could verify his claim, as data on files from 1999 onwards was available with the administration. The other CMs since then have been Ashok Chavan, late Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde.

“The allegations over slow decision-making are made by a section of people, particularly those who are interested in land matters and construction. If a file is in order, it will be cleared in the normal course by people in the lower ranks of the state administration. But, files that require policy changes come to me, as certain powers are vested with me as the CM and head of the urban development department. The files or proposals of certain concessions or a hike in FSI come to me,” he said.

“A section of people are hurt as they have enjoyed a slew of concessions. There has been a case in which a parking lot with 26 floors was developed as per a policy that was introduced in the past. If a builder constructs a parking lot, he gets incentive FSI against that. But, after going through such cases, I decided to link such concessions given to builders with premium payable to BMC and government and, as a result, Rs 3,000 crore was added to the state and BMC coffers, which can be used for public purpose.

I have decided to make it binding to reserve 20% of dwellings for economically weaker sections in big layouts. Also, clearance was given for a slum policy with a cut-off date of 2000, as promised by us in the 2004 and 2009 assembly elections. Some major infrastructure projects have been cleared or speeded up in recent months. The land compensation offered by CIDCO is among the highest and the process has the utmost transparency.

Special attention was given to the drought situation and we have spent Rs 12,000 crore on it. Going towards the root cause, a major push was given for construction of barrages and water tanks. As many as 3,000 water tanks have been constructed recently. At one village in Karad tehsil, there are 23 barrages now and in places where drinking water was an issue, farmers are now planning two crops in a year.

A major policy decision was also taken to provide two-year training to state government employees across cadres. It is going to benefit in the long term as it will increase coordination among state officials, who rarely know each other unlike the IAS, IPS or IRS cadre officers who undergo joint training sessions organised by the Centre,” the chief minister said.

On Maharashtra Sadan
“An inquiry is on in the Maharashtra Sadan case and a team went there on Tuesday. Reports about the Ganesh Festival not being allowed are not true. In fact, employees working there have formed a society and they organise Ganeshotsav each year and the state government gives them Rs 10 lakh for this. There is no question of seeking permission from anybody.

The basic issue in the controversy was the allotment of a suite to Dr Satyapal Singh. The suites to MPs were made available according to the request by th secretary general of the Parliament. But, while distributing it among MPs, there was little choice as suites at the Sadan are built as per the requirements of dignitaries such as Governors, CMs, Dy CMs and ministers.

It does not have single or double bedrooms like in hotels. So, an allotment of a bigger suite to Dr Singh may have upset the Sena MPs. The Sadan construction was like a barter deal. The sadan’s Resident Commissioner Bipin Malik and the developer and contractor Avinash Chamankar do not get along. The contractor does not take care of the maintenance as per the agreement. There was an attempt to allot the catering service contract to a particular agency.

On limitations
There were limitations to go further on the basis of the PAC report on Maharashtra Sadan and Chitale panel report on irrigation scam as we are in an alliance

On Mahayuti
The BJP will miss Modi as he is not the sole face now, unlike in the Lok Sabha elections where he sought votes for making him PM. The BJP is missing leaders of the stature of Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde. Who is going to hold discussions with the alliance partners? Even seat sharing between the Mahayuti partners will not be a smooth affair. If the BJP contests 119 seats, how will it install its CM?

'Cong’s not finished'
There have been occasions in the past in which the Congress was considered finished. But this was proved wrong even after the party’s worst defeat in 1977. We are shell-shocked after the Lok Sabha debacle. Our focus for the state assembly polls is on the achievements of the state government. Our thrust will be on social media and direct connect with the people

‘Natwar’s wrong’
On claims made by former Union Minister Natwar Singh about Rahul Gandhi’s role in Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s decision to stay away from the coveted PM’s chair, Chavan refused to say much.

The CM, who is considered close to 10, Janpath and a trusted man of the Gandhi family, said, “The phase in which Sonia Gandhi decided to reject the Prime Minister’s chair was certainly an emotional one. But, the contention that the government files were routed to her at 10, Janpath is not true.”

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