Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde found himself in the line of fire after the Congress questioned his role in the appointment of his alleged “business partner” as the chairman of a state-run corporation. Levelling accusations of ‘conflict of interest’ and ‘misuse of office’, the Congress released documents showing that Dilip Karambelkar, made chairman of the Maharashtra Rajya Marathi Vishwakosh Nirmiti Mandal by the Marathi language department which Tawde heads, was co-director in a couple of “for profit” firms that Tawde is associated with.
Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan demanded Tawde’s resignation and removal of Karambelkar from the post he currently holds. The Nationalist Congress Party too targeted Tawde with party spokesman Nawab Malik demanding an inquiry in the matter.
Karambelkar, who is associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was appointed to the post last August.
“The department had not recommended Karambelkar’s name. Further, even the recommendations made by the Chief Minister’s office did not include his name,” Chavan said, alleging further that Karambelkar’s name was included at the instance of an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) working in Tawde’s office.
“The entire matter smacks of conflict of interest and misuse of office,” he added. The Congress has also released SVML’s 2013 balance sheet where Tawde and Karambelkar are signatories.
Karambalekar and Tawde are directors in Shree Multimedia Vision Limited. Documents released by the Congress show that Karambelkar was also director in Shrirang Printers Pvt Ltd, where Tawde too served as director from 1996 to 2007.
Tawde had previously courted controversy over his educational qualifications and over a contract awarded for the supply of fire extinguishers in Zilla Parishad schools. The BJP leader, however, seemed unfazed by the criticism. “They (the Opposition) is hurling allegations based on incomplete information,” Tawde said.
“There is no question of conflict-of-interest. I have known Dilip Karambelkar since 1978. The state government reserves the right to nominate any person it feels has the expertise to lead a state-run corporation,” Tawde said.
The minister also said he was only an honorary director in SVML. “I hold no shares in the firm and I am not a business partner in the venture as is made out to be,” Tawde said.
Meanwhile, the Congress said the controversy runs deeper. “Papers show that the Maharashtra BJP provided Rs 25 lakh to SVML,” Chavan said. According to a newspaper report published on Thursday, the BJP’s state unit paid Rs 25 lakh as a “trade advance” to the firm. The BJP has been targetting the Congress over a loan extended by the party to Associated Journals Limited in the National
Tawde countered this saying the trade advance was simply an advance against services obtained. The advance was extended in 2001 when Tawde was a general secretary in the state unit. Union Minister and former BJP national president Nitin Gadkari too had served as a director on SVML.