Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday gave a “clean chit” to state Industries Minister Subhash Desai, a Shiv Sena minister, who was facing a probe over accusations of impropriety in a controversy surrounding the denotification of lands acquired by the state-run Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) for industrial purposes in Nashik’s Igatpuri.
He also came out in strong defence of BJP’s own cabinet ministers – Subhash Deshmukh, Sambhaji Nilangekar Patil, and Jaykumar Rawal – who have also been facing allegations of misconduct.
More than eight months after a judicial inquiry commission submitted its findings on allegations of impropriety against former BJP minister Eknath Khadse, the Chief Minister’s Office chose not to place or discuss it on the floor of the house yet again.
Later, Fadnavis, while interacting with newspersons, said, “I have already said it (even in the House) that tabling the report on Khadse saheb has no meaning now. The High Court has ordered filing of a case in the matter, based on which investigation has been undertaken, which would be brought to the notice of the High Court.”
Khadse, once the No. 2 minister in the Fadnavis cabinet, has been sulking ever since he had to quit his ministerial position following the allegations in June, 2016, and has been targeting his own government. In the budget session of the legislature, which was over on Wednesday, Khadse had targeted the Fadnavis government, raising a stink over a rodent killing contract awarded in the state secretariat, which the government side later refuted. On Wednesday, Fadnavis even appeared to fire a veiled barb at Khadse, “There is a lion and a tiger (referring to the Shiv Sena), and that was not scared of rats.” But Fadnavis appeared to play the rift down during the news conference. “When Khadse saheb met me, he said he had raised the rodent killing issue in jest, did not know it would be taken so seriously.”
Earlier, in August 2017, Fadnavis had appointed a one-man committee under former Additional Chief Secretary (Home) KP Bakshi to probe allegations against Desai, after the Opposition alleged that the denotification of the industrial plots in Nashik had been done at the “behest of a builder who was closely related to the Shiv Sena.”
On Wednesday, Fadnavis informed that the Bakshi committee had ruled out any conflict of interest in the matter. He further said that the committee, which was also asked to probe denotification of lands used for industrial purposes during the last 15 years, had found that 160 such exercises, including some that had been undertaken not in keeping with the norms, had taken place between 2002 and 2017. While claiming that the 400-page inquiry report would be made public, the CM said that the committee has recommended a provision in the MIDC Act, that allows ‘deemed denotification’ of industrial lands not acquired within 15 years of the initial notification, while also recommending that the notification should be issued only after a thorough ground-level survey report. The Chief Minister also rose in defence of Cooperatives Minister Subhash Deshmukh, who has been facing a public outrage for building his private bungalow on a plot originally meant for the fire brigade in Solapur.
Fadnavis claimed, “Records show that the development was regularised way back in 2004 under the Maharashtra Gunthewari Developments (Regularisation, Upgradation and Control) Act, 2001, which states that the existing reservation on a plot would stand automatically modified following the regularisation. While the Solapur civic body recognised the regularisation, the confusion arose since it did not modify the reservation on the city’s development plan, which later saw accusations being raised against Deshmukh. The CM also said that he had now directed municipalities across the state to update the reservations listed for such regularised lands. Records show that it was the state’s Urban Development department, which had reinstated the Fire Brigade and garden reservation… when the civic body has proposed its inclusion in the ‘residential zone’.”
Fadnavis also refuted allegations of ‘conflict-of-interest’ raised against Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal over a resort land owned by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation in Nandurbar, while also claiming that the ‘one time settlement’, involving Labour Minister Sambhaji Nilangekar as a guarantor and public sector banks, was as per norms stipulated by the Reserve Bank of India.
Earlier in the day, Deshmukh, too, made an emotive speech in the house, refuting allegations raised against him. Minister of State (Agriculture) Sadabhau Khot, who was accused of inducting dubious beneficiaries in a scheme for distribution of agriculture equipment, also defended himself. Meanwhile during the same discussion, Fadnavis also announced plans to recruit 72,000 new employees in the state government over the next two years.