Maharashtra's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has asked for the home department's permission to probe public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal's role in the Maharashtra Sadan scam.
As the minister of the Public Works Department in the Congress-NCP government, Mr Bhujbal is accused of giving the contract for the Maharashtra government's building in New Delhi to an associate of his, who was not known to be a contractor capable of such projects. No tenders were reportedly floated and it is alleged the cost of the project shot up to Rs 150 crore, three times the original projection.
Mr Bhujbal's associate then subcontracted the project to another firm, which is known to have close links with the minister. The contract for furniture for Maharashtra Sadan was given to a company run by Mr Bhujbal's own relatives.
The contractor, Chamankar Enterprises, was later given another project to develop a slum plot, which the BJP alleges is worth at least Rs 1,000 crore.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya had complained to the ACB, asking for an investigation against Mr Bhujbal. The ACB had told him that according to the rules, the home department's permission must be sought for this. All investigations involving public servants need the government's permission.
Mr Bhujbal has rejected allegations of corruption, saying that the project was approved by a committee headed by the Chief Minister and other cabinet colleagues. He claimed that everything was done within the rules and that the project didn't cost the government any money, since the cost of building the Sadan was to be borne by the contractor. He had also said that since many firms were involved in the project, he couldn't have kept track if some of them were his relatives'.
The controversial Mr Bhujbal, who moved from the Shiv Sena to the Congress and finally Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party, has had many allegations thrown at him, but none of them have stuck. He was interrogated in the multi-crore Telgi stamp paper case, faced allegations of embezzling money from the Mumbai Educational Trust and several others. He has been let off in all of them. He is now facing charges in the coal block allocation scam as well.