Ministers unite on Adarsh, bicker over other matters

Jan 03, 2014, 14:51 IST | Ravikiran Deshmukh

Congress and NCP ministers showed unanimity in letting their colleagues go unscathed in the Adarsh scam, but fought bitterly over other issues in the cabinet meeting later

The Congress-NCP’s Democratic Front came together to do all they could to save their party colleagues from being taken to task over the Adarsh society scam. But, this ‘alliance’ turned sour when the cabinet meeting veered into other issues. Both the Congress and the NCP had separate meetings with their cabinet colleagues in view of the crucial subject of accepting of the Adarsh commission report. Though the cabinet meeting was scheduled at 11 am, it began at 12.45 pm, as lengthy discussions were being held, apparently, to save their partymen.

After these separate meetings, referred to as ‘pre-cabinet meetings’, another meeting took place, in which a few senior cabinet ministers from both the sides were allowed to participate. Later, the two NCP ministers Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope, both of whom had been named in the inquiry commission report had a one-to-one meeting with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. They are said to have explained circumstances in which they chaired meetings on the Adarsh society (as mentioned in the probe report), when both of them were ministers of state for urban development between 2003 to 2005.

Subsequently, both Tatkare and Tope left the CM’s chamber and did not attend the cabinet meeting, since their role in the Adarsh society was to be discussed. “Since the crucial issue of taking action against the six politicians was discussed and decided during the special meeting involving a few senior ministers, no formal discussion took place in the scheduled meeting of the cabinet,” said sources. This process went on smoothly, they reported.

As the cabinet meeting proceeded further, things took a turn for the worse. First, Home Minister RR Patil took umbrage to the issue of not having been asked about the Republic Day parade. There were plans to have a grand parade, for the first time, at Marine Drive, involving the army, navy and the air force. The organisation of the parade is handled by the Protocol department, which is with Congress minister Suresh Shetty.

However, Patil, being the home minister, was not consulted. The file was never shown to him and senior officials of his department had signed on his behalf, leaving his name in brackets on the document. A furious Patil stunned the cabinet by saying, “Nowadays, ministers have been confined to brackets. I can’t even transfer or suspend a constable, leave alone dealing with senior police officers. The plight of ministers has become like that of a pet animal.”

Industries minister Narayan Rane strongly objected to the language and said it was unbecoming of a minister to use such words. In another instance, Rural Development Minister Jayant Patil intervened, saying he wanted to raise an issue, but asked ministers to switch off their cell phones. He alleged that some people from the cabinet had kept the cell phones on and were letting media persons in on cabinet discussions.

“I am ready to show you audio clips of cabinet conversations,” Patil is believed to have said. This was a serious allegation and all hell broke loose in the meeting, so much so that Patil’s party colleague and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar opined that such ministers should be shown the door. “CM Prithviraj Chavan too appeared disturbed and reacted sharply,” sources told MiD DAY.

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