A day after Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan offered to resign,suspense over his fate continued on Sunday with Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee saying that the decision would take some more time. But party sources indicated that while a final call would be taken after Diwali,Chavans chances of survival were very bleak.
Mukherjee and Union Defence Minister A K Antony,who is also in-charge of the partys affairs in Maharashtra,form the two-member panel set up by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to submit a report on the alleged scam in the Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai,including the allotment of flats to Chavans mother-in-law,sister-in-law and brother-in-law.
Antony and Mukherjee held their first meeting on the issue at the latters residence on Sunday evening,following which Mukherjee said they would need more time as they have to examine all documents.
Hours before the meeting,Antony had said at the sidelines of a function here that it will take time,but it will not take unusual time.
Incidentally,Mukherjee and Antony had selected Chavan as the Chief Minister after Vilasrao Deshmukh resigned in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Meanwhile,Chavan is camping in New Delhi,seeking an audience with Mukherjee. Chavan,who spent the entire day at a five-star hotel here meeting reporters and holding discussions with aides,was reported to have claimed that he was working under the orders of the then chief ministers.
His aides alleged that former chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh,Sushil Kumar Shinde and Narayan Rane had also recommended several names for allotment of flats in the residential complex,and the first two were instrumental in clearing and sanctioning the housing project. Three of Deshmukhs aides were reported to have flats in the complex.
But the former CMs rubbished the charges. Deshmukh said he had no idea about the alleged irregularities,and the responsibility lay with the Revenue Department which was then headed by Chavan. He also pointed a finger at Chavan,stating that the entire problem started after the inclusion of civilians as members of the society,although when he got the file,the project was only meant for retired defence services officials and Kargil heroes and widows.
Asked about the allotment of flats to Chavans relatives,Deshmukh told The Indian Express,As a part of the government,when you are putting conditions to a society to include civilians,being in politics you have to be careful about allotting flats to your relatives.
Terming the charges against him as politically motivated,Deshmukh said he had only cleared the letter of intent in which there were just 20 members,mostly including defence services people. I had then forwarded it to the Revenue Department. After that I dont know what happened as I resigned as chief minister, he said.
While there was apprehension in a section of the Congress that accepting Chavans resignation may encourage the Opposition to target Deshmukh and Shinde as well,party sources said given the fact that many Opposition leaders,including Suresh Prabhu of the Shiv Sena,also own flats in the complex and that the previous NDA government was equally culpable on the issue of environmental clearance for the project,the government was more than prepared to engage the Opposition on this issue.
Meanwhile,the NCP refused to be drawn into the controversy,saying that it was an internal matter of the Congress. We have no reaction to give, said NCP general secretary D P Tripathi.