DAYS after the prosecution named Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Jitendra Awhad while arguing against the anticipatory bail plea of four Thane corporators accused in the suicide of Thane builder Suraj Parmar, one more NCP politician’s name has been linked to the controversy.
Documents with The Indian Express show that MLC Niranjan Davkhare, who is also the youth wing chief of Maharashtra NCP, approached Minister of State for Urban Development Ranjeet Patil in June seeking the latter’s intervention in getting permissions for the very building projects that two NCP corporators, Najib Mulla and Hanumant Jagdale, had raised objections against.
Mulla and Jagdale were among the four corporators Parmar had named in his suicide note. Parmar, who operated a real estate business in Thane, shot himself on October 7.
Later, the Thane police registered a case against Mulla, Jagdale and two more corporators Vikrant Chavan (Congress) and Sudhakar Chavan (Independent). On November 30, former Maharashtra minister Awhad’s name was linked to the controversy when the prosecution questioned the transfer of Rs 1.7 crore from Mulla’s bank account to Awhad’s.
A Thane police source told The Indian Express that the role of Niranjan, son of Maharashtra Legislative Council deputy chairman Vasant Davkhare, was now being probed. Joint Commissioner of Police (Thane) V V Lakshminarayan said, “Investigations are on in the case.” He refused to divulge further details.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Niranjan acknowledged that he had arranged for Parmar’s meeting with Patil. “I came in touch with Suraj (Parmar) over some social work. We became friends. He had come to me for help, claiming some local elements were traumatising him. My belief was that the problems he had been facing were borne out of an ego tussle, and that it was wise to approach the minister for a legally valid solution.”
He said Parmar had told him that efforts to sort things out locally had been futile.
Asked if Parmar had specifically named Mulla and Jagdale among those opposing his projects, Niranjan did not give a direct answer. “I had been given to understand that efforts to sort matters out locally hadn’t succeeded,” he said.
The documents further reveal that acting on a request from Niranjan, Patil convened a meeting with Parmar and senior corporation officials on June 23 and also issued certain directives to the civic body. Niranjan, too, attended this meeting.
Hinting at a deep rift within the NCP in Thane, Mulla told The Indian Express that Niranjan could have first approached him and the other corporators opposing the projects, instead of approaching a minister. “He (Davkhare) is my superior in the party. Had he contacted me, I would have explained that we raised the matter in public interest.” Niranjan, meanwhile, claimed that he approached Patil only after he was convinced that Parmar was indeed undergoing mental trauma over his stalled projects.
Mulla added that the June 23 meeting was an “eyewash”. “The government and the Thane civic administration should come clean on whether the directives the minister issued at the meeting were in line with the norms,” he said.
Patil had earlier told The Indian Express that the directives he issued on June 23 were an “administrative order” and that he was within his rights to do so. Official documents show that Principal Secretary (UD) Nitin Kareer had okayed issuance of the minister’s directives stating that they “asked the TMC to re-verify each case on merit”.
Meanwhile, Awhad issued a detailed note Thursday refuting any link. “We (Mulla and myself) had formed a company (Dream Realtors) along with two other directors in 2009 and have regularly filed tax returns. The Rs 1.7 crore transferred into my account was towards the director’s remuneration and interest,” he said.