The on-going episode in Adarsh housing society case is intriguing and probably puts the ruling Congress-NCP in a soup. Recent statements by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, deputed by the Congress leadership as a damage control exercise after the controversy broke, confirm that he was not comfortable with the way things were moving in this case.
“I came to know of the Governor’s decision on CBI’s request for permission to prosecute ex-CM Ashok Chavan through newspapers,” he said on Saturday. He appeared a bit surprised over the handling of the matter. Not just that, he even recalled handling of a matter pertaining to a case against his cabinet colleague Dr Vijaykumar Gavit a few months back. The cabinet had then opined against prosecuting the minister and forwarded its decision to the governor, says Chavan.
The CM also added that the governor is allowed to take four months before disposing off such referred cases, under section 197 of the CrPC for prosecuting public servants. After going through the statements by Chavan, one can easily draw a conclusion that he wanted to wash his hands off the entire controversy.
Does the Congress leadership in Delhi want to save Ashok Chavan? It seems so, since the CM says he came to know of CBI’s appeal before the Governor and the subsequent decision, through newspapers. It raises a few questions over the manner in which the CBI was denied permission, especially when it is presumed that the state governor discharges his duties in consultation with the state cabinet. Not even the state’s law and judiciary department were consulted in this matter, said the CM, when asked about it. It is pertinent to note here that of the 80-people strong contingent that the Governor’s secretariat has at Raj Bhavan, no legal expert is deputed, and instead, regular staffers handle such files. Only when the Raj Bhavan seeks legal advice are officials from the law and judiciary department approached.
The CM also suggested that he was forced to go slow in handling of the Adarsh inquiry commission report. There is ample space to believe that he was asked to not make the report public, mainly due to its potential to rock the 14-year old Congress-NCP government. When the report was submitted to the state government in April this year, the only copy, which was in DVD format, was lying with the CM and never reached to General Administration Department, which handles appointment and workings of inquiry commission.
The DVD was only recently handed over to a senior IAS officer, when it became clear that the government had no option but to table the report. The officer facilitated the printing of limited copies of the report without its translation in Marathi. The CM says he avoided leaks of the report by not getting it translated.
The manner in which the report reached the Vidhan Bhavan premises at Nagpur must be noted. A special team of policemen was deputed to protect the copies of the report, which is against existing norms. The team of plainclothes policemen took the documents to the lobby of the state assembly and the state council. Here, the distribution of the copies to members witnessed chaos, and security personnel could not prevent it.
Now, after the decision to reject the report, Chavan is trying to skirt controversy. In a bid to save his image, he says it was a cabinet decision. “Cabinet takes decisions in public interest,” was his clarification. What public interest was served when the cabinet headed by him decided to snub the findings?
Congress and NCP fear leaving their leaders open to legal scrutiny. But, the rejection of the report has sealed the fate of the alliance. Both the parties want to protect their leaders – be it Congressman Sushilkumar Shinde, Ashok Chavan, Shivajirao Patil-Nilangekar or NCP leaders Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope.
So, what is the politics behind saving these faces? Congress cannot survive in Solapur by antagonising Shinde, who is a prominent Dalit face. Similarly, the party cannot dump Ashok Chavan, who controls local politics in Nanded district with six Congress MLAs and MP. He is also backed by over 20 MLAs, whom he personally helped win in the 2009 general elections. Any harsh action against Ashok Chavan can threaten the Prithviraj Chavan government if he is not protected.
In Shivajirao Patil-Nilangekar’s case, the party has no candidate to lead the Congress in the Nilanga assembly constituency if he is dumped. Besides, the senior leader also maintains a good rapport with central leaders. In NCP’s case, it has no formidable candidate in Raigad district if action is taken against Sunil Tatkare. The party has no other leader in Jalna district if action is taken against Rajesh Tope.
In the end, politics won.
— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY