MUMBAI: Nothing seems to be going right for the Congress in Maharashtra. Even as senior leaders were plotting to displace Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, the party’s image has been severely hit due to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report that surfaced in the Assembly.
A week ago Congress drew solace from the fact that Adarsh was the only scam to have tainted some of their leaders. However the situation just got worse for the party with BJP MLA Devendra Phadnavis presenting sections of CAG report in the Assembly this week. The report revealed how several senior leaders including former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh cornered prime plots of government land for the trusts run by them or their family members at throwaway prices. Barring Chhagan Bhujbal from the NCP, all other ministers and MLAs that the leaked CAG report has exposed belong to the Congress. In fact the abuse of power by the Congress leaders for personal gain exposed by the CAG is so brazen that in its light the Adarsh scam appears overshadowed.
For instance, Sindhudurg Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, in which state Heavy Industries Minister Narayan Rane’s wife Neelima is a trustee, got land from state on lease for 30 years for charity purpose. Even as the trust paid an annual rent of `869, it constructed a four-storey structure complete with banquet hall and bar. CAG failed to see any charitable activity being undertaken by Rane’s trust as it rented out the space for functions such as marriages for `2 lakh per day.
Deshmukh, whose name figures in the Adarsh scam, had gifted 23,840 sq m of prime land at Borivali in Mumbai to Manjra Charitable Trust, an organisation run by him. The Union Science and Technology minister had doled out the largesse to himself when he was the CM. Minister Patangrao Kadam also acquired government land for his education empire Bharatiya Vidyapeeth.
Congress MLAs and ministers have not even spared land meant for economically weaker sections of the society. The CAG reveals that Minister for Employment Vasant Purkhe, former MLA Sunil Deshmukh, former MLA Jayant Sasane, MLA and former minister Nitin Raut to name a few had made false claims about their income to acquire houses meant for economically weaker sections of the society.
According to a Congress leader, CM Prithviraj Chavan is the biggest beneficiary of the CAG revelations. The recent coming together of former CMs Ashok Chavan and Deshmukh bode ill for the CM. A few days later a group of Congress MLAs were flown to Delhi where they conveyed to party high command about the urgent need to replace Chavan as CM in order to save the party. The MLAs on their return claimed that their mission was a success. The change would come by July or end of this year.