A day after they were arrested for allegedly taking bribe from a civic contractor, PCMC standing committee chairman Nitin Landge, his secretary and three civic employees were remanded to two-day police custody by a special court of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Thursday.
ACB Deputy Superintendent Seema Mehandale told The Indian Express, “We had urged the court to grant four-day custody to carry out further investigation. However, the court granted two-day custody.”
The civic standing committee has 16 members, of which 10 members are from BJP and four are from NCP. The ACB remand report quotes Landge’s secretary Dnyaneshwar Pingale as saying they will have to discuss the issue of bringing down the bribe amount with all 16 members of the committee. “We will have to question all the members,” said an ACB official.
The ACB had taken the five into custody soon after a meeting of the civic standing committee on Wednesday. The three civic employees were allegedly caught while accepting Rs 1.18 lakh from the contractor, who was initially asked to pay Rs 10 lakh for a work order for installing advertising hoardings. The amount was later brought down to Rs 6 lakh, according to the ACB.
The five arrested were questioned for several hours, said ACB officials. During questioning, Landge repeatedly said he had no role to play in the matter and had no knowledge about the bribe demand, they said.
Meanwhile, the BJP on Thursday came out in full force to defend Landge. Without naming NCP, the opposition party which has levelled several corruption charges against BJP, the BJP claimed the case was a result of a planned conspiracy to defame the party ahead of the civic elections scheduled for February next year.
“This is a pre-planned conspiracy intended to frame Nitin Landge. We will go to the root of the matter and bring out the truth… through misuse of power, our people’s representatives are being framed in false cases but the truth will soon come out,” said state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil.
Pimpri-Chinchwad BJP president Mahesh Landge ruled out any possibility of Nitin Landge resigning. “Why should he resign? He has done nothing wrong,” he said.
At a press conference in Pimpri on Thursday, Mahesh Landge said they will expose those behind “the attempt to defame the BJP”. “This is a conspiracy against the BJP and there is a bigger political hand behind the ACB action. The ACB carried out the raid without any concrete proof. There are no call records or documentary evidence,” he said.
BJP MLA Laxman Jagtap said, “The standing committee under Landge was doing a good job by giving quick approval for development works. Landge comes from a well-to-do family and is not interested in making money out of politics. Our political adversaries are shaken by the outstanding work the party has done in Pimpri-Chinchwad. The attempt to defame BJP has been done to lower its image in the public eye ahead of the civic elections, which we are slated to win once again. But the truth will be out soon…”.