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Go-ahead for graft probe against Bhujbal

As BJP weighs NCP offer, state Home department sanctions open inquiry against NCP leader

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai |
October 23, 2014 1:33:30 am
Chhagan Bhujbal Chhagan Bhujbal

Even as talks continue over who will take the BJP past the halfway mark in Maharashtra, the state Home Department on Wednesday gave its nod to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to probe the role of senior NCP leader and former Maharashtra public works department (PWD) minister Chhagan Bhujbal in a public private partnership (PPP) construction project involving Delhi’s Maharashtra Sadan and two other government buildings in Mumbai.

With the NCP offering ‘unconditional’ outside support to prop up a BJP-led government in Maharashtra on October 19, the buzz in political circles is that one reason for the NCP’s dramatic move was the pending corruption probes against its senior leaders.

On September 1, the Home Department had sanctioned an “open inquiry” against former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and NCP’s state chief Sunil Tatkare over allegations of corruption and irregularities in irrigation projects. Both Pawar and Tatkare held the water resources portfolio in the erstwhile Congress-NCP government. Wednesday’s nod to probe Bhujbal would mount further pressure on the BJP to reject NCP’s offer.

Following the Home Department’s nod, the file recommending an “open inquiry” against Bhujbal and other state functionaries has now been forwarded to Maharashtra’s Chief Secretary Swadhin Kshatriya. Incidentally, the file on Pawar and Tatkare has been sitting on the desk of the state’s topmost bureaucrat for more than a month.

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Sources told The Indian Express that the ACB had submitted a ‘special report’ to the Home Department on October 14, making a case to initiate a discreet probe in a complaint it had received on the alleged wrongdoings by Bhujbal.

Sources further said that the Home Department’s nod for an “open inquiry” came after it studied ACB’s report and assessed strictures passed previously by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the state legislature with regards to the construction project. The ACB had also sought permission for an inquiry in the matter three months ago, the government nod for which did not come.

Interestingly, some of the ACB’s findings pertain to BJP’s Lok Sabha member Kirit Somaiya’s complaint seeking an investigation against Bhujbal, alleging economic offences and illegal financial favours to associates in the construction project. Prima facie, said sources, the anti-corruption watchdog has found evidence to merit an inquiry in some of these allegations. It has reportedly also sought help of government agencies monitoring financial irregularities for its investigation.

The matter dates back to 2006, when the Congress-NCP led government entered into an agreement with contractor K S Chamankar for construction of the three buildings — the Maharashtra Sadan (state’s official guest house in Delhi Lutyens’ zone), another state guest house (High Mount) at Malabar Hill, and a new administrative building and residential quarters for the Regional Transport Office at Andheri — on a PPP basis.

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