BJP's claim of a corruption-free government 'gets a slap'

Sep 13, 2018, 08:44 IST | Dharmendra Jore

School director hits social justice minister's staff member, claiming his institute was not given approval despite a hefty bribe; Opposition wants the minister to be sacked, and an inquiry into the incident and all approvals granted by him

BJP's claim of a corruption-free government 'gets a slap'
Devendra Fadnavis

Here's a slap that's still resonating in political circles. A school director slapped a minister's staff member last week, for allegedly accepting a hefty bribe for an approval that was still not given. The act that negates talk of a corruption-free government, happened last Friday afternoon at social justice minister Rajkumar Badole's office in Mantralaya.

In the incident, a clerk named Gabhane, who is attached to the minister's set-up, was confronted by Arun Niture, who runs a residential school (ashram shala) in Keshegaon in Osmanabad district. Niture spoke to media persons on Wednesday. He said he had given Badole's personal assistant (named Mane) Rs 10 lakh as a bribe, and also Rs 1.60 lakh to an officer in the minister's office.

"Despite the payments, they did not approve a grant for my school. When I inquired, there was no response, and then I slapped Gabhane twice [in front of other staff]," he said. Niture has been visiting Mantralaya to get a government grant for his residential school and also trying to get an approval for a new school for three years. He claimed 322 schools were asked to pay R10 lakh each for various approvals.

'PAs now, ministers next'
The opposition leader in the Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil mocked the BJP government's claim of zero corruption and transparency. "This is a shameful incident for the government. People have beaten up PAs, next it will be ministers who are equally corrupt," he said. He said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis should stop giving clean chits to his ministers and order an independent inquiry in the incident.

Opposition leader in the Upper House, Dhananjay Munde, demanded immediate suspension of the staff member and the removal of Badole. He said all approvals Badole gave since 2014 must be probed. The CM's office hadn't reacted till this report went to press.

'Will enquire, take action'
Badole said Niture's school was illegal. "However, if my staff is at any fault, we will initiate action," he said. The minister said the school which Niture talked about was one of the 322 which were started illegally on non-grant basis during the previous government. "We are at the receiving end because of the mistakes that the previous government made," he said, adding that the directors of such schools had been petitioning the BJP government for grants and approvals.

On compassionate grounds
The minister said his office had forwarded Niture's files to the CM's office on compassionate grounds. "Such decisions are taken by the cabinet, not at minister's level. The allegations made against us are baseless," he said.

Rs 10 lakh
The bribe Arun Niture allegedly gave to social justice minister Rajkumar Badole's PA

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