Chavan, Kripa in Danger Zone
IT IS learned that the All India Congress Committee (AICC) is all set to replace the Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) president Kripa Shankar Singh, as early as possible. According to a highly placed source in the AICC, Rahul Gandhi, the youth icon in Congress is not so happy with the happenings in the State.
However, to please the Congress leadership in the capital both of them are lobbying hard it is learned. In a recent development Chavan took Bollywood hero and a favourite of Priyanka Gandhi family Shah Rukh Khan, Karan Johar and team from Bollywood in an attempt to build an image with the poor villagers, for a trip to Nanded, his hometown and assembly constituency. Speaking to THE VERDICT over telephone a senior Congress leader from Nanded said that Chavan would not allow grass-root Congress workers to mingle with him. “People in his coterie would surround him all the time whenever he visits the constituency. Chavan was forced to oblige them for obvious reasons,” he added.
In another development, Ashok Chavan added ‘Rao’ to his name and now he will be known as Ashokrao Chavan. Critics of Chavan within Congress Party, say that he might be following the directions of his god-man and mentor Pattapurti Saibaba of Andhra Pradesh. Chavan got all the name boards of his offices and residence changed, as also stationery, such as visiting card, letterhead, etc.
It may be recalled that there were serious allegations against Chavan ministry from his own party that he was favouring the builders’ lobby in Mumbai for financial gains. However, whenever allegations came up for discussions in the meetings Chavan used to air-dash and managed to please the high command, through his high-placed contacts at the AICC office. “Since the people sitting at the AICC office don’t know the ground-reality, Chavan and leaders like him from Maharashtra used to gain from these visits,” added the source. Meanwhile, the Election Commission has called him for some clarifications for his alleged involvement in the ‘paid news’ controversy. The EC was acting on a recent report by the Press Council of India on ‘paid news’.
There were serious allegations from the senior party leaders in Maharashtra that not Chavan but his wife takes the decisions. “During his predecessor Vilasrao Deshmukh’s tenure it was his son who shot the guns, but now it is his wife who does it for him,” alleged a senior Congress leader.
In yet another move to appease his betenoire and predecessor Vilasrao, Chavan in a hurriedly called cabinet meeting granted Deshmukh his wish: a 1,500MW thermal power plant in the Union minister for heavy industries’ hometown Latur. There has been a lot of political sparring between Chavan and Deshmukh ever since Chavan took over his position as the state CM in 2008. According to sources the move suggests that the CM is reaching out to Vilasrao. A month ago, pushed by Deshmukh’s supporters, Chavan had conceded Rs 800 crore as development grant for Latur, something that Deshmukh had approved when he was the chief minister.
The joint venture project will supply power to the entire state, including Mumbai’ eastern suburbs, and is expected to help the state reduce the demand-supply gap between 3,000MW and 4,000MW. Deshmukh, who heads BHEL, had announced the plan in 2009. Several queries from the state government side had delayed the approval for the joint venture, sources said.
The Rane factor: Narayan Rane, one of the leading contendors for chief minister’s gaddi in the State since last few years is also facing trouble with his son Nitesh Rane’s alleged involvement in a shooting case. The Maharashtra police crime branch has initiated an investigation into the matter. The Khar police which have been probing the case for the past 10 days could not make any breakthrough in the matter transferred the case to Crime Branch and handed over the case papers to the concerned officials.
However, Nitesh Rane who is president of Swabhiman, a non-governmental organization, has refuted the charges, saying that he would face any inquiry against him. Nitesh, allegedly opened fire at Shamim Shaikh alias Chintoo, the president of Swabhiman Vahatuk Sankh, who has revealed in his complaint that he had gone to meet the NGO chief at his Khar office on September 23 and the other members assaulted him. He further added that he somehow managed to escape alive and jumped through a window when somebody fired at him and got himself admitted in Hiranandani Hospital at Powai. However, according to sources, Shaikh himself is a history sheeter and was with Raj Thackeray’s outfit Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. The hospital authorities said that as per preliminary medical reports, the victim had not sustained any bullet injuries, following which Shaikh met Maharahstra home minister R R Patil and complained that there was no progress in the matter and requested his intervention into the matter. He also stated that there is a serious threat to his life from Swabhiman activists. However, according to Himanshu Roy, additional commissioner (crime), Mumbai police, the prima-facie case reveals that Shaikh is lying to get media attention. “Only when a doctor from Hiranandani Hospital asked him whether he was hit by a bullet, Shaikh said yes. Both the men who Shaikh claimed to be accompanying him during the attack said that they were not aware about such incidents. Also, instead of calling the police first, he called the media and gave statements about the attack,” said a senior police official from crime branch. Reading together all the statements and facts one doubts what Shaikh’s ultimate motive was, behind the episode.
Rane also was in the news for converting a plot reserved for the Konkan Development Corporation Ltd, in Mumbai to a restaurant cum bar in his wife Neelam Rane’s name. The hotel, Jail, occupy the land allotted to the co-operative society from Konkan, it is alleged. However, Rane who is not so well-worsed with the Congress politics has been used whenever need arises. The Congress high command appointed Rane as the head of election campaign in Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation, once considered as a stronghold of Shiv Sena. The Congress wants to spoil Sharad Pawar Congress’ growing popularity in the region. Raj Thackeray’s MNS also considered as a strong base in KDMC and needless to mention Raj keep a good rapport with Rane.
Finally, Kripa Shankar may be in the net: In the meanwhile, senior leaders at AICC are not happy with Kripashankar Singh either. “The MRCC president should be an untainted and respectable person. It is prestigious, not only because of the post. But, because Mumbai is the financial and entertainment capital of the country as well as the population belongs to various communities and segments from all over India. Singh’s alleged involvement in the infamous Koda scam and some other serious allegations against him, raised by some senior MRCC members. We are observing the functioning of Singh and an appropriate decision would be taken only after a serious scrutiny,” said a leader. It is learned from reliable sources that members in the MRCC including some of the North Indian leaders are unhappy with Singh’s highhandedness and his coterie. “Singh introduces himself as messiah of north Indians in Mumbai. But can you tell us what he did for the development of the community. Of course, he earned lot of money for himself using his political positions with doing nothing for the people, expect his political lobbying for rich people,” alleged a visibly upset Congress worker who hails from Singh’s native Jhaunpur in Uttar Pradesh. “Is it possible for a common man to meet Singh at his abundant office situated just opposite Mumbai Mahanagar Palika building?” he asks.
Speaking to a private television channel recently senior journalist S Balakrishnan of The Times of India opined that it would not be wise for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to retain Singh at his office. Balakrishnan added that everyone knew that Singh is famous for his closeness to Vadra family, where Priyanka Gandhi is a daughter-in-law. “If the strong case against Singh pending in various courts goes against him, it would create an embarrassing situation for the Congress in Maharashtra,” he added. However, MRCC spokesperson Nizammudin Ryeen strongly advocated retaining Singh at MRCC office. When the anchor asked if he is Congress spokesperson or Singh’s spokesperson, Rahim could not answer at all.
Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Income Tax (I-T) and Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) told the Bombay High Court that they would be submitting the status report on Kripa Shankar Singh case in a sealed cover by October 27. A division bench of justices Ranjana Desai and R V More, while hearing a PIL filed by activist Sanjay Tiwari, had asked for a status report.
:If you satisfy us that the PIL is filed with malafide intentions, then we will impose cost on the petitioner. But, first we want to see the progress of the investigation, said Justice Desai.
Noted lawyer, Mahesh Jethmalani, who represents Tiwari argued that the court should continue monitoring the investigation as the case had larger ramifications. Advocate General Ravi Kadam said the ACB is already conducting a probe. “The court can’t tell the investigating agencies how to go about the probe,” he said. The court said they weren’t telling the agencies how to investigate, but were interested in the progress made. Rajendra Raghuvanshi, Singh’s counsel, said the PIL was filed with malafide intentions and needs to be dismissed.
The other contenders for the covet president posts are Priya Dutt, Member of Parliament and daughter of film-actor-turned politician late Sunil Dutt. However, the minus point with Priya is that her film-actor-cum-politician, Sanjay Dutt, who is with Amar Singh these days. There are few others, viz, self-styled Dalit leader and MP Eknath Gaikwad, whose daughter Varsha Gaikwad is a minister in Maharashtra, Chandrakant Handore, who is also a Dalit leader and former minister, Gurudas Kamat, junior minister for I&T at Centre and Milind Deora, MP and son of Union petroleum minister Murli Deora. Also in the race is ex-Shiv Sainik who shifted his loyalty to Congress, Sanjay Nirupam, MP, who was a strong critique of Congress culture. During his honeymoon with Sena he edited the party’s mouthpiece Saamna and wrote many editorials against Congress party and its leaders. Nirupam migrated to Mumbai from Bihar, is also playing north-Indian card. He is famous for arranging Chhaat Puja at Juhu Chowpatty, a ritual celebrated widely in north-India, especially in Bihar.
However, the final verdict would be delivered from 10, Janpath, Sonia madam’s official residence. Taking into account that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the wealthiest municipality, is all set to face an election during next year, Congress high command would think twice, before taking any decision.
The author MURALEEDHARAN RAGHAVAN is editor-in-chief of THE VERDICT – of the reader for the reader, English tabloid weekly published by The Independent Media of India Group, Mumbai. He can be contacted at [email protected]