The spate of notices by the anti-corruption ombudsman in Maharashtra to the BJP and Shiv Sena‘s ministers and MPs, the latest being the one on Friday to Gopal Shetty, is likely to bring more political pressure and erode popular support for chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s government.
Fadnavis sought to play down the issue saying the notices were part of “a routine procedure”. He told , “Once a complaint is made, the Lokayukta, as per the provisions of the act, seeks an explanation from the respondents. If charges are proved, I will be the first person to act and I will take strongest possible action.”
But the image of the state government is clearly taking a beating. In the run-up to the assembly polls in 2014, BJP had sought to project a picture of contrast to the incumbent Congress-NCP coalition, which was under the shadow of the Adarsh scandal. In a campaign led by Narendra Modi, it had promised a clean, corruption-free regime. Now one and half years later, Fadnavis, often described as ‘Mr Clean’, is seen to preside over a dispensation in which more than a dozen cabinet members have been accused of corruption, irregularities in land deals, or plain incompetence.
Food and civil supplies minister Girish Bapat is among those under scrutiny of the Lokayukta headed by Justice M L Tahaliyani, a former judge of the Bombay high court. On a petition by the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, Bapat, who is believed to be a trusted aide of the CM, has received a notice for failure to control the rising prices of pulses.
A week ago, it was transport minister Diwakar Raote who faced similar action over losses incurred by MSRTC in a ticket vending machine deal. On yet another complaint filed by Mumbai Congress unit chief Sanjay Nirupam, the Lokayukta issued notice to the Sena minister of state for housing, Ravindra Waikar. The main charge was that while a trust floated by him had permission for construction of a single storey gymnasium, it had built a multi-storey building. Waikar has replied to the Lokayukta.
Former revenue minister Eknath Khadse too was under scrutiny on a complaint by a former director of a management college. At least nine other cabinet members are similarly involved in controversies or have cases pending.