Maharashtra government set to face opposition ire

By Quaid Najmi, IANS,

Mumbai: Three weeks after a fire gutted the Maharashtra seccretariat, the Democratic Front government is preparing to face the opposition’s ire over a host of issues during the assembly’s monsoon session starting Monday.

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The problems which the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) coalition is grappling with are readymade and the aggressive Opposition plans to embarrass the government over the issues.

The opposition is expected to rake up the issues of corruption charges against Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare, a confidant of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, the Adarsh Housing Society scam in which former chief minister Ashok Chavan has been named an accused, and a police complaint against a top bureaucrat and top realtor in a Rs.45,000-crore land scam.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Peasants & Workers Party have already demanded a probe into Tatkare’s wealth.

BJP leader Kirit Somaiya and Jayant Patil claim they have evidence against the land deals and the 140 companies set up by Tatkare and his family within a span of three years.

Somaiya has called on Governor K. Sankaranarayanan and officials of the union finance ministry in New Delhi, demanding a probe into these alleged acts of omission.

However, NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has dismissed the allegations against Tatkare.

On the Adarsh scam, after Ashok Chavan was named in the CBI charge-sheet, the opposition has demanded charge-sheets against two other former chief ministers – Vilasrao Desmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde. Both are currently union ministers.

Chavan, who resigned as chief minister in 2010 after the scam was revealed, has been booked with 12 others, including former Congress legislator Kanhaiyalal Gidwani.

Adding fuel to scam probe was “routine” transfer of CBI Joint Director Rishi Raj Singh, who was leading investigation, raising eyebrows and a political storm.

Add to this, a Mumbai court ordered filing of a first information report (FIR) against bureaucrat Thomas Benjamin and others for their alleged involvement in a Rs.45,000 land scam at Powai’s Hiranandani Complex, owned by leading realtor Niranjan Hiranandani.

Following this, the Anti-Corruption Bureau lodged the FIR last week and started a probe.

Also, nearly three months ago, when the governor raised the issue of incomplete irrigation projects, the government was forced to admit the shortcomings and bring out a white paper.

With Maharashtra facing deficient rainfall and grim water situation, the government would need Rs.75,000 crore to complete the pending projects.

The arrest of 26/11 conspirator Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, currently in the custody of Delhi Police.

The opposition has been demanding details of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT) operative Jundal’s exact role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks since he is from from the town of Beed in the state’s backward Marathwada region, and role of similar groups or people in such attacks.

The tougher questions would be on the disappearance of Bollywood starlet Laila Khan with at least five of her family members for over 18 months and her alleged links with the LeT.

While her stepfather and a suspected LeT operative Parvez Iqbal Tak told the Jammu police that Laila and her family had been murdered and buried in Mumbai, her father Nadir Shah Patel had dismissed the claims.

Though the Mumbai police have no evidence to back Tak’s claims since the bodies are untraced, the case could raise serious questions on he city’s law and order problem.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])