Blame game on, Deshmukh targets Chavan

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 2 2010, 04:49am hrs
Twenty-four hours after he offered his resignation to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, there was uncertainty about the fate of Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, who camped in a hotel in New Delhi on Sunday waiting to meet senior party leader Pranab Mukherjee.

On Saturday, Sonia had asked finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and defence minister and party in-charge of the state AK Antony to submit a report on the allegations against Chavan regarding the controversial allotment of flats to his relatives in the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society in Mumbai. While Chavan called on Antony earlier in the day, he was expected to meet Mukherjee, who was slated to return from West Bengal in the evening, later on Sunday.

While Chavans close aides sought to defend him by citing the role of former chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde in clearing and sanctioning the housing project, Deshmukh rubbished the charges, saying he had no idea about the alleged irregularities in the housing society and the responsibility lay with the revenue department then headed by Chavan.

The former chief minister also pointed a finger at Chavan, saying the entire problem started after the inclusion of civilians as members of the society, although when the file had come to him, the project was meant for retired defence services officials and Kargil heroes and widows.

Asked about the allotment of flats to Chavans mother-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law, 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 alloting flats to your relatives.

Earlier in the day, the Chavan camp had said three former aides of Deshmukh also owned flats in the residential complex and other former CMs, including Sushil Kumar Shinde and Narayan Rane, as well as senior NCP leaders had recommended many names for allotment of flats in the society.

But Deshmukh denied these allegations, saying that he had only cleared the letter of intent in which there were only 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.

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 DP Tripathi.

Senior NCP leader and state minister Ajit Pawar also said he had nothing to do with the Adarsh housing society scam. Show me even one person who is either a relative or someone I know who is a member of the society, he said. I have not recommended anyones name for membership, he added.