A DAY after the Ajit Pawar-led NCP demanded that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis launch a probe into allegations of corruption against BJP-ruled Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), the BJP hit back, alleging that the complainant was closely associated with NCP leaders and a “history-sheeter”. Addressing a press conference in Pimpri on Tuesday, president of BJP’s PCMC unit Laxman Jagtap produced “copies of criminal cases” filed against the man, who had filed the complaint at the PMO grievance cell.
“We have proof about the complainant’s close association with NCP leaders and his criminal record. He has at least 10 criminal cases filed against his name. He was also slapped with an MCOCA. We have procured his criminal record from the Pune police,” said Jagtap.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Pankaj Dahane said they are verifying the record. As of now, we are aware of at least two cases filed against the man, he added.
Identifying the complainant as Pramod Sathe, Jagtap said, “What is the locus standi of this man?…he is neither a contractor nor a resident of Pimpri-Chinchwad. He has made the allegations after being instigated by some NCP leaders, with whom he is closely associated.”
Jagtap added that the bills of some of the contractors, who are allegedly close to NCP leaders, have not been cleared as they were submitted after the deadline. “And, therefore, the contractors, in tandem with NCP leaders, instigated Sathe to file the complaint…but then the complainant himself is of a dubious character,” he said.
He added that the PCMC has, from this year, put in place a new rule regarding the submission of bills for payment by contractors. “It was made mandatory for contractors to submit the bills by March 31. However, several of them submitted their bills after March 31 and, therefore, there payments have been delayed. Some of these contractors are close to NCP leaders and therefore they are resorting to dubious means to get their bills cleared,” he said.
On how the PMO sought probe by PCMC without verifying the antecedent of the complainant, the BJP leaders remained evasive. Mayor Nitin Kalje, Standing Committee Chairperson Seema Savale, BJP House leader Eknath Pawar, along with other party leaders Azam Pansare and Sarang Kamtekar, were also present at the press conference.
Meanwhile, NCP Pimpri-Chinchwad President Sanjog Waghere denied that the NCP had any association with the complainant. “We deny that we are familiar with Sathe. We have no association with him and neither are we aware of his antecedents. He had complained to the PMO and the grievance looked genuine, therefore, we called for a thorough probe into the matter,” he said.
As for the security sought for the complainant, Waghere said, “When we called the complainant, he told us that he feared a threat to his life. Therefore, we had sought police protection,” he added.
After the complaint was filed, the PMO had asked PCMC to investigate the matter. Accordingly, PCMC Commissioner Shravan Hardikar launched an investigation. The complainant had alleged that BJP leaders and PCMC accountant Rajesh Lande were demanding three per cent commission from contractors for clearing their bills. Lande had denied the allegations, stating that he did not allow any contractor inside his office for days before and after March 31.
PCMC chief said, “They have initiated a probe into the complaint…the complaint is of general nature so we have asked the complainant to submit any evidence he has. He hasn’t attached any evidence yet.”