Prakash Mehta: I am ready to quit if the CM asks me to
A day after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis defended him in corruption allegations, state housing minister Prakash Mehta said yesterday he would quit if the CM asked him to.
Mehta's changed stance hasn't come as a surprise in view of the mounting pressure from the Opposition and a section in the BJP. So far, he has been refusing to quit despite admitting that he didn't inform the CM while irregularly approving extra FSI for a builder in Tardeo.
'I will go if...'
"I'm ready to quit if the CM asks me to. I will stay away till the inquiry gets over," Mehta told reporters at the monsoon session. "I'll accept whatever the CM decides. He hasn't asked me for any explanation yet. I will explain my position if the BJP high command asks."
Fadnavis had said on Thursday that there was no fraud because he had scrapped Mehta's proposal immediately after the irregularities were brought to his notice. The government is under pressure because the MD of state road corporation (MSRDC) was removed from office on Thursday following corruption charges. Sacking Mehta would be another jolt to the Fadnavis government.
Continuing the attack on Mehta, leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, brought up three more cases of his alleged nepotism and corruption.
In the first, Mehta is accused of including his son Harsh and relatives as beneficiaries of redeveloped buildings in Ghatkopar. The development was by Shri Sai Nidhi Private Ltd, of which Mehta was an additional director. He claimed he quit the post 10 days before becoming a minister.
Vikhe Patil said that while Harsh and Mehta's relatives were given flats in new buildings, original tenants were not accommodated. But Mehta said his son is not an unauthorised tenant.
On Thursday, Vikhe Patil told the Assembly that Mehta had reallotted a government plot in Ghatkopar to a private developer. Mehta said, "Neither MHADA, government, nor SRA has allotted any plot to a private party."
In the second case, Mehta was accused of using his clout to get his wife Kishori's name removed from a police complaint, filed against residents of Samyak Darshan building in Kirol. Kishori owns flat no 403 in the building. Last March, Mehta had asked police to take action against illegal construction in Samyak society. When they filed an FIR against residents, Mehta got his wife's name changed to Kishor, alleged Vikhe Patil. Responding to this, Mehta said, "She owns the flat but my brother Kishor stays there."
In another case, Mehta is alleged to have sidelined Fadnavis in approving illegal amalgamation of several plots that were reserved for slum rehab and transit camps.
"Senior bureaucrats had rejected Mehta's proposal, yet he got officers to approve it in a single day," Vikhe Patil said. "How could a minister keep the CM in the dark while taking such decisions repeatedly? This simply means that the minister has the blessings of some (influential) people (in the BJP). Is the CM under pressure to keep him in the Cabinet?" Vikhe Patil asked. "Is it wrong to seek the resignation of such a bundalbaaz (fraud) minister?" he asked.
Shiv Sena minister in trouble too
Opposition leader in the Council, Dhananjay Munde, has accused senior Shiv Sena leader and industries minister Subhash Desai of excluding 60 per cent of MIDC's notified land in Nashik - 400 acres - to return it to the original owners, calling for his resignation. "It was notified for industrial purpose and would come handy to set up units, which had asked for plots under MoUs signed for Magnetic Maharashtra 2016," Munde said. Desai is expected to respond to the allegation next week.
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