Pune: Maharashtra minister Girish Bapat has drawn flak after he attended a function where a controversial builder, whose company has been booked for cheating over a “misleading” newspaper ad for cheap housing, was also present at the venue and allegedly evaded the police by fleeing on a scooter.

However, Bapat, who had earlier ordered a collector-level inquiry against the company, Maple Shelters, after it carried his picture along with that of the Prime Minster and Chief Minister in its advertisements falsely suggesting that it was part of a government scheme, claimed that he was not aware of the presence of the accused Sachin Agarwal at the seminar organised a TV channel yesterday.

Agrawal, promoter of Maple Shelters, was caught on camera by mediapersons allegedly fleeing on a scooter riding pillion while the police arrived at the venue even as the minister was explaining to reporters that he had nothing to do with the controversial project.

“I was present at the function. But I came to know much later that Agarwal too was present there sitting in another room. I had no knowledge of his presence when he left the place when police came searching for him,” said Bapat, who finds himself in the soup over the row.

Asked as to how Agarwal was allowed to leave the function venue yesterday, Deputy Commissioner of police Tushar Joshi told PTI that policemen had gone to the spot for some other reason and not to nab the builder.

“The case against Maple and its partners has been handed over to economic offences wing which will decide as to when Agarwal’s interrogation will take place. Our policemen went to the spot last night after getting a call that there was a commotion during the function,” he added.

Activists of Raj Thackeray-led MNS demonstrated before Guardian Minister Bapat’s residence in Kasabapet area demading his resignation for alleged “connivance with the builder”.

The builder who is facing charges of various economic offences for circulating misleading advertisements to attract booking by offering one bedroom houses for Rs five lakh on the outskirts of Pune has been booked by Shivajinagar police for cheating in addition to other sections of IPC.

The central and state governments have clarified that the Maple project in Pune had no sanction or endorsement under Pradhanmantri Avas Yojana.

The booking for the scheme has been stopped by an order by the state government after Pune Collector submitted a report to Chief Minster Devendra Fadnavis.

The MNS activists vandalised the Maple office in the city yesterday forcing the staff to stop enrollment for the scheme that was going on despite the authorities distancing themselves from the project.

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