Two Uddhav Thackeray appointees in office-of-profit soup

Updated: Feb 20, 2020, 07:33 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar | Mumbai

As chief CMO coordinator Ravindra Waikar and parliamentary coordination committee head Arvind Sawant come under the scanner, former says he will give up his perks

Uddhav Thackeray
Uddhav Thackeray

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's appointment of Sena MLA Ravindra Waikar as chief coordinator in the CMO and that of party MP Arvind Sawant as head of State Parliamentary Coordination Committee may land him in trouble. The move, aimed at troubleshooting for the party at the state and Centre, is likely to trigger an 'office-of-profit' row. It is a situation where an elected member may face a conflict of interest in his discharge of duties towards the State and also bring such a person some benefits/financial gains.

A senior Mantralaya official claimed that Thackeray and chief secretary Ajoy Mehta held a discussion to understand whether the appointment fell under the ambit of "office of profit".

Ravindra Waikar
Ravindra Waikar

The CM has asked Mehta "to study the issue and apprise him with the findings and solutions," the official said. A chief minister usually appoints people from his/her own party (MPs or MLAs) to help with parliamentary work.

However, according to rules, an office of profit means a position in government that brings financial gains, remuneration or a position which yields salaries, perquisites and other benefits in the government. It refers to a post under the central/state government.

Arvind Sawant
Arvind Sawant

This post cannot be held by a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) or Member of Parliament (MP).

Waikar, however, said that the rumours of his resignation over this issue were incorrect. "I have not resigned. There is no office of profit case. But if merely by taking perks the case falls in the office of profit term, I will not take perks offered by the government as mentioned in the Government Resolution (GR). I will not give up the post and continue to work as coordinator according to the order issued by the government," Waikar told mid-day.

However, aware that this could spark a fresh row, especially with the opposition, Thackeray along with other party workers has begun work on finding alternatives.

The CM has initiated consultations with senior party leaders and bureaucracy over the issue. During his recent visit to the coastal Konkan region for a religious fair, he had a meeting with party leaders to discuss this issue.

A senior Sena functionary on condition of anonymity claimed that many within the party too are of the opinion that the appointment of Waikar and Sawant might invite troubles for the MVA government, especially the CM.

Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta and Sawant remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.

Sena leader Waikar was minister of state in erstwhile BJP-Sena government. However, he was not inducted in the Thackeray led triparty government. In order to pacify him, Thackeray created a post of CMO coordinator where Waikar's role would be to meet Sena ministers, leaders and party workers to assist the CM. The move is said to have become an issue with Sena's ally partners Congress and NCP. Similarly, Sawant was appointed to coordinate between the state and union government to expedite Maharashtra's pending issues at the Centre.

Around 14 years ago (2006), Congress leader Sonia Gandhi had to resign from Lok Sabha over the office of profit controversy. In 2018, the Election Commission had recommended disqualification of 20 Aam Admi Party (AAP) MLAs in this regard too.

2006
Year Congress leader Sonia Gandhi had to resign from Lok Sabha over the office- of-profit controversy

2018
Year EC recommended disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs over the office of profit situation

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