Greedy minister wanted freebies from bank

Jan 21, 2014, 07:11 IST | Varun Singh

Prakash Solanke, a former minister of state for cooperation, sent a letter to a cooperative bank to pay for fuel of his official car;  and depute its employee as his PA

While there are stories aplenty of ministers using their clout to get more than they are owed, this is as brazen as it gets. Documents obtained by MiD DAY indicate that back in 2011, a minister’s officer on special duty (OSD) wrote to a cooperative bank, demanding that they provide fuel and maintenance for the car used by the minister.

Prakash Solanke, an NCP man, is now a member of the legislative assembly
Prakash Solanke, an NCP man, is now a member of the legislative assembly

A few months later, the minister himself wrote a letter to the same bank, not asking, but informing them that he had appointed one of the employees of the same bank to work under him. The minister in question is Prakash Solanke, an NCP man who is now a member of the legislative assembly. He and his OSD had written to the Mumbai District Central Cooperative Bank.

When the letters were written back in 2011, Solanke was the minister of state for Cooperation. He lost his office in the reshuffle in 2013. The letter asking for fuel was signed by R C Shah, the then OSD for Solanke, who is now the district special auditor Class I officer. Solanke himself signed the second letter.

Prakash Solanke’s demand for the bank to pay for his car and fuel were not accepted by the authorities. File pic
Prakash Solanke’s demand for the bank to pay for his car and fuel were not accepted by the authorities. File pic

Thankfully, the bank didn’t oblige the minister or his officer on either of the demands, and ignored the mail. When contacted, Chairman of Mumbai Bank, Pravin Darekar, said, “We had got the letters, but couldn’t decide upon it, and the matter was pushed to future board meetings.”

While other officials of the bank remained tight-lipped on the matter, a senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “Why should we pay for the fuel and maintenance of the car, when the government pays for the same? And our employee, who the minister wanted to employ, is paid Rs 1.25 lakh per month. The question is, why should a minister employ a bank worker who is not a government servant?”

Solanke speaks
MiD DAY approached Solanke for an explanation. Asked about the first letter dated February 7, 2011, in which his OSD asked for payment for fuel and maintenance for the car, Solanke refused to acknowledge his involvement, saying, “My letterhead might have been misused or the OSD might have sent the letter on his own.

I am not aware about any such letter. I cannot comment on it, unless I see the letter.” The letter categorically states that the demand was for the minister’s Ambassador, with the number plate MH01-BA-413. MiD DAY then contacted Shah, and informed him that Solanke had denied giving any permission for the letter. In response, Shah said, “They (the bank) did nothing about the demand.” When asked to elaborate, he said, “The letter must be from 2011 and I will have to see it to talk about it.”

Asked about the second letter, dated September 22, 2011, Solanke confirmed that he had wanted the bank employee Ram Jagdale to work for him. He said, “Because I was looking after the cooperatives and this person is related to a cooperative bank, I had asked for him, but he never came or worked under me for a single day.”

According to a senior bank official, in the event that Jagdale was sent to work for the minister, the bank would have had to pay his salary on a regular basis. “The money in the bank belongs to common people. How can we spend it on a minister so that he can drive smoothly on the road? Moreover, he gets paid for it from the government.”

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