TWO OF the six MNS corporators of the BMC who recently defected to the Shiv Sena are likely to face an inquiry by the Maharashtra Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB). The anti-corruption agency is likely to register a case against them within a fortnight, according to sources privy to the case.
The probe agency found that the two had unaccounted assets, suspected to be the “buyout” paid to them to join the rival camp.
The sources said while there was more than satisfactory evidence to proceed against one of the corporators, the inquiry against the other was in the last leg, and a case would be registered based on the findings.
“In the case of (corporator) Parmeshwar Kadam, we have come across unaccounted assets. Those need to be probed. We have found similar irregularities in the case of another corporator who led the group to join the Shiv Sena. His assets are being examined. Within a fortnight, the inquiries will conclude and a decision will be taken,” said an official privy to the probe.
“If at this point we don’t find satisfactory evidence against the other corporator, then the other option would be to launch an open inquiry,” added the official.
“Statements of complainants alleging horsetrading or buyout is not proof of any wrongdoing. There have to be some transactions during the relevant period or some unexplained assets or benami investments. All the six (corporators) are being probed on these counts,” the official said. “While there is material evidence to lodge a case against Kadam and one more corporator, we are probing if there are any transactions to prove allegations of horsetrading against the other four,” added the official.
The corporators who switched sides are Dilip Lande, Parmeshwar Kadam, Archana Bhalerao, Ashwini Matekar, Dattatam Narvankar and Harshala More. Calls and messages to Kadam did not elicit a response.
The inquiry also revealed that in August, the alleged ringleader was approached by MNS chief Raj Thackeray to find if his corporators were being wooed by the Sena, but he managed to convince Thackeray that there was no such move from the Sena. “After getting a whiff of his corporators being approached by the Sena to defect for a ‘price’, Thackeray asked the ringleader of the now-defected group to probe the matter. The ringleader convinced Thackeray that none of his men could be bought by the rival camp,” said the official.
Over the last week, the ACB headquarters in Worli in south-central Mumbai has been witnessing a flurry of activity, with both the MNS and the BJP giving their complaints. On Tuesday, the ACB recorded the statement of Sanjay Turde, the lone remaining BMC corporator of the MNS (ward no 166) who is also a complainant in the ACB case.
Turde alleged that he was approached by Dilip Lande to join the Sena. Lande allegedly made an offer to Turde if he decides to join the Sena, his complaint letter reads.
“Turde’s statement has been recorded. In his statement, he has given specifics of the corporator who approached him with the offer,” added the official.
“Turde has told ACB officials that he was approached by Lande to join the Sena for a price. The statement was recorded after we approached the authorities to inquire into the incident and conduct a thorough probe into financial dealings,” MNS leader Sandip Deshpande told The Indian Express.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya has also given a written complaint to the ACB. Both Turde and Somaiya have met ACB chief Vivek Phansalkar on the issue.
“I have met and discussed with officials from both the central and state agencies to probe the issue of the Sena buyout. They have assured the allegations would be probed,” Somaiya told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, sources say that the acting Konkan Divisional Commissioner has recorded the statements of the defected leaders who approached her to merge the group with the Sena. “The corporators don’t fall under the ambit of the central law pertaining to defection but are bound by the Maharashtra Local Authority Members Disqualification (Amendment) Act, 1986. Since more than 2/3rd of the members of the party defected, the provisions don’t apply to them but the matter is being probed in detail by the divisional commissioner office,” said an official privy to the details.
When contacted, acting ACB chief Vivek Phansalkar refused to comment.