Stung, Chief Minister asks about land deals during Congress regime
Orders judicial probe into allegations by the Opposition that he favoured builder in Navi Mumbai land deal
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered a judicial inquiry into the allegations made by the Congress about him facilitating a land deal in favour of a private builder that allegedly caused a Rs 1,700-crore loss to the state exchequer. He has also put the Opposition in the dock by extending the probe to similar land deals done during the Congress governments.
Fadnavis was responding to a debate initiated by Opposition leader in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Thursday. Patil demanded the CM's resignation on moral grounds. In response, Fadnavis demanded Patil's resignation, and his party colleagues supported the demand in the house, which was stalled for the day because of the ruckus.
Fadnavis denied all allegations, calling them a figment of the imagination. He grilled Chavan, asking him if the files for such sale deeds between the project-affected people and developers had come to him for clearance when he was in office. He said the law permitted the additional Collector to allot land to PAP, not the CM or revenue minister or urban development minister.
"If you ask for my resignation, then you should also ask [retrospectively] for the resignation of previous CMs – Prithviraj Chavan, Ashok Chavan, Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh, because similar land allotments were done during their tenure, too. Some 606 hectares of land was allotted to PAP in the Congress regime and some 200 PAP had sold their land because the law allowed them to do so," he said, adding that this was all agricultural land in the vicinity of the upcoming Navi Mumbai airport.
He said the leaders who have accused him were more interested in the commercial rate of the land that was charged per square foot. "If I were to value 606 hectares as per the commercial rate, then the total cost would go up to R50,000 crore. "CM Prithviraj Chavan had issued an order in 2012 that the PAP should be given land of Class One status [which can be sold by the PAP without any legal hindrance]," he said. He said the Opposition's charge was baseless because the 24 acres of land in question cannot be used for commercial exploitation unless a conversion fee of R233 crore is paid to CIDCO. Fadnavis said the government would not change any policy about PAP, but prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) in view of the discrepancies that have been exposed.
Who did it, CM asks Prithviraj Chavan
In a bid to show ex-CM Prithviraj Chavan how he was trapped by his own party colleagues, Fadnavis recounted a controversial deal on a piece of prime land near Lonavala. He said when Chavan was CM, a person named Jajoria applied to change the use of a plot of no-development land. "The land, located behind Lonavala's wax museum, was a forest that had a water body but was given clearance in violation of all rules. A clearance from the forest department was not sought and a decision on the water body was kept pending. The owner was also asked to buy the adjoining land so that the entire stretch could be granted residential land status. A night after the clearance came, a private builder purchased the land. Now, you should know who was behind all this," said Fadnavis.
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