AMID talks of a possible expansion of the Cabinet in Maharashtra, clamour for the resignation of a senior BJP minister facing corruption allegations is growing.
On Thursday when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met BJP national president Amit Shah in Delhi, the Opposition upped the pressure on him over the demand for Housing Minister Prakash Mehta’s resignation.
Mehta has been facing allegations of impropriety in a controversy pertaining to a slum redevelopment proposal being implemented by a real estate major in Mumbai’s Tardeo region. The Opposition’s latest demand comes in light of Fadnavis’s admission that he had received an investigation report from Maharashtra’s Lokayukta M L Tahaliyani in the matter.
Following an uproar in the state legislature over the allegations against Mehta, Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao had asked Justice Tahaliyani to conduct a probe in the matter on September 6, 2017. Fadnavis himself had written to the Governor seeking such directives. “We have received the Lokayukta’s report. An action taken report on it would be submitted in the upcoming session of the state legislature,” said Fadnavis, on the sidelines of his meeting with Shah in Delhi.
“I do not wish to comment further on the issue. It (the report) is the property of the state legislature. Any discussion on it (outside the House) can invite a breach of privilege of the members,” Fadnavis said.
But with some unconfirmed reports claiming that the Lokayukta had passed strictures against Mehta, the Opposition stepped up the demand for his resignation. “The CM had issued a clean chit to his minister even before the inquiry.
At least now when the inquiry has laid bare the minister’s wrongdoing, we expect him to take action against Mehta,” said NCP’s Maharashtra president Jayant Patil, while claiming that the Lokayukta’s probe was ordered only after the Opposition benches repeatedly cornered the government on the issue.
The Congress was also aggressive. “The government should clarify its stance over the issue. It should immediately remove Mehta and lodge an FIR against him,” said Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant, while alleging that the BJP leadership itself was involved in the controversy.
Eyebrows, meanwhile, are being raised over the timing and source of the reports. Mehta, who continues to deny any wrongdoing, himself hinted at it. “I’m not aware if the Lokayukta’s report has been submitted. I’m not even concerned on sources who are spreading such news, since I’m confident that I’ve done no wrongdoing,” he said.
Amid intense speculations that he could be dropped from the Cabinet, buzz is that the latest development is more an “inside” job. Mehta, however, remained defiant. “The government has already clarified its stance in the matter in the House. But with the Opposition continuing to disrupt the House, I had myself asked the CM to order a probe. If there is an adverse finding in the report, the decision that the CM and the party take in my regard would be acceptable to me,” he said.
Despite attempts, Justice Tahaliyani remained unavailable for comment.