After an inordinate, nearly seven-year-long wait that was punctuated by numerous controversies, Maharashtra Sadan - the new state guesthouse in the national capital – was finally inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee yesterday. PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who has faced considerable flak for the project, could not conceal his bitterness.
“It was my dream project but was delayed by a number of controversies that were completely uncalled for,” said the NCP leader as the President looked on. Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar also graced the ocassion.
Almost reflecting the building’s chequered journey to completion, there were several glitches at the event. The power went off at two of the most inopportune moments, leaving the state’s leaders redfaced. The first power outage occurred during Sharad Pawar’s address, and electricity was restored soon. But just as the President was preparing to deliver his speech, the lights went off again, this time for several minutes.
Since the construction started back in 2006, the project has faced several hurdles over allegations of corruption raised by the BJP. In fact, the inauguration planned last year had to be called off after BJP leaders lodged a complaint with the Mumbai ACP, over allegedly shady deals struck with the Sadan’s builder in exchange for other payoffs. The inauguration was suspended. Last month, NCP leaders are believed to have impressed upon the CM the need to finally inaugurate the guesthouse.
Even though it was a state function yesterday, leaders from BJP steered clear of the event. Former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, who had been instrumental in wresting the plot for the building from the Centre in the 90s, skipped the function even though he was in the Capital. However, Bhujbal made mention of his efforts. BJP’s ally Shiv Sena also remained largely invisible at the event, barring leader Milind Narvekar and MLA Vijay Shivtare.
Congress members were also conspicuous by their absence, making the function look like an NCP convention – many leaders from the party were seen, including R R Patil, Babanrao Pachpute, Sunil Tatkare, Vijaykumar Gavit, Laxman Dhoble, Anil Deshmukh, Fauzia Khan and other party office bearers from Mumbai and Nashik. PWD minister of state Ranjit Kamble, MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre, MP Manikrao Gavit and cooperation minister Harshwardhan Patil were also seen.