This Article is From Oct 31, 2010

Adarsh Society scam: Who will replace Ashok Chavan?

New Delhi: Is it now just a matter of time before Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan's offer to resign is accepted?

Chavan, who has been cornered in the Adarsh society scam in Mumbai, was called to Delhi where he met Sonia Gandhi, and the Congress has made it clear that Chavan's immediate political future will be decided by an inquiry headed by Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony. But there's another worry for the Congress - just who can replace the Chief Minister?

On Saturday, Chavan met Sonia Gandhi after being summoned to Delhi by the Congress High Command - a clear indication that his explanation at a press conference on the controversy was not sufficient.

"Regarding the Mumbai scam, I have given the information to Sonia Gandhi...I have told her the truth. What role we play in it has all been put on the table. It is the government's land," he said, adding, "CBI inquiry is also welcome. It should be researched and investigated. The truth should be out. Everyone should know all the facts. I have offered to tender my resignation, left it to the Congress President to take the final call."

The Maharashtra Chief Minister also met Union Defence Minister AK Antony. Antony is the Congress general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra.

Senior Congress leader Janardhan Dwivedi said that AK Antony and Pranab Mukherjee have sought a detailed report from Ashok Chavan and that the party will take a final call only after getting a reply from the Maharashtra Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, Chavan met Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi.

"We are examining the papers. I have just come back (to Delhi) this evening. I will consult with my colleague, AK Antony. We need more time," Pranab Mukherjee said after his meeting with Chavan. (Watch: We are examining documents, says Pranab)

Sources also told NDTV that Chavan's resignation offer may be accepted. However, there's no clear contender for replacing him yet. (Read: Who is Ashok Chavan?)

But finding a successor to Chavan may not be easy, as the names of some of its top leaders from Maharashtra have come up with regard to the housing project.

  • In 1999, when Adarsh Society first gave the proposal to the government, Narayan Rane was the chief minister, then in the Shiv Sena
  • Two years later, when the society got the letter of intent, Vilasrao Deshmukh held the top job
  • In 2004, when the land was allotted, Sushil Shinde was in charge
  • Chavan was then the revenue minister
  • The housing society got massive sops after 2004
  • This year, it got the occupation certificate from the Chavan government
  • Three of Chavan's relatives got flats when he was chief minister

Sources say Chavan told the party bosses that two of his kin who got the flats had defence links, but there was a clear conflict of interest and that has embarrassed the party.

Chavan had been summoned to Delhi by the Congress High Command, after he denied allegations that he helped his relatives get flats in the controversial Adarsh Society and insisted that there was no need for him to resign. (Read: Chavan summoned to Delhi to meet Sonia Gandhi)

PM refuses to comment on the scam

The Prime Minister on Saturday refused to comment on the scam, which isturning out to be a huge embarrassment for the Congress. "I am notfamiliar with all the facts of the case. I can make any meaningfulcomments when find out facts," Dr Manmohan Singh said, when asked byreporters on-board his flight back from Hanoi.

BJP demands Chavan's resignation

The BJP, however, is now demanding that Ashok Chavan immediately resign or be removed from his office. (Watch: BJP demands Chavan's resignation)

Addressing the media on Sunday afternoon, Nirmala Sitharaman, the BJP spokesperson, said, "Our demands are clear. We want the Congress party to respond. They have remained silent. We demand Chavan's resignation. The inquiry should be under a sitting Supreme Court judge and the findings should come out."

"There are links between top generals and politicians. The revenue minister at that time is the current CM, the then-CM is a Congress man, Vilasrao Deshmukh," she added.

The 31-storey high-rise in Colaba has become the catchment area for a massive political controversy. Former army chiefs, politicians and bureaucrats have all been allotted flats here for a fraction of the market rate.

Records show that two members of Chavan's family - he described them as distant relatives - are among the 103 people allotted flats in the Adarsh Society. However, he stressed that they have not taken possession of these flats and are willing to return them. (List of Mumbai's Adarsh Society flat owners)

Won't give up allotted flats: Adarsh promoter

However, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani,  the promoter of the Adarsh Housing Society says he will not give up allocated flats in the society. "We have done no wrong. If it is proved the land was for Kargil War widows, I will return it. The Chief Minister's relatives and generals may have returned their flats, but I know the truth. The flats were not for Kargil widows, " says Gidwani, who is also a former Congress MLC. (Read: Kanhaiyalal Gidwani claims nothing illegal in Adarsh society)

Revoking Adarsh Society's Occupancy Certificate

Chavan said, on Friday, he has asked the MMRDA to revoke occupancy certificate granted for the building till Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) gives its clearance.

The Navy had recently opposed the granting of the certificate, citing security concerns. "The land belongs to the state government, based on the Collector's records. Revenue department land granted to the Society as per GR of 9.7.1999," Chavan said.

The CBI is now investigating the scam. Stung by allegations that senior army officials were part of a conspiracy to grab flats they were not eligible for, the Army has announced its own inquiry.

Former Army Chiefs give up flats

Former Army Chiefs Nirmal Chander Vij and Deepak Kapoor have given up their membership of the Adarsh Housing Society. Vij told NDTV he has also informed the Defence Minister of his decision. (Read: Former Army Chief give up Adarsh Society flats)

Adarsh Society: Conflict of Interest?

It is not only politicians and the defence brass who have usurped flats in Adarsh Housing Society. A deeper look into the allotments shows a clear conflict of interest of top bureaucrats as well. Relatives of several officers involved in clearances for the project got flats there.

  • Seema Vyas, the wife of Mumbai collector Pradeep Vyas has a flat. He was the officer who approved flat allotments
  • Former Mumbai collector I A Kundan who scrutinised the allotments also later got a flat
  • Kanishq Phatak, the son of former municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak has a flat. His father later allowed the six floor building to be extended to 31 floors