Mumbai: Maharashtra Housing Minister Prakash Mehta today faced a fresh allegation, of incorporating the names of his family members as the beneficiaries of a slum redevelopment project in his constituency, which the Congress said amounted to a “conflict of interest”.
Mehta, an MLA from Ghatkopar (East), is already facing an inquiry ordered by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for allegedly violating norms in a slum redevelopment project in south Mumbai.
Raising the issue in the Assembly, Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil (Congress) said, “Mehta’s company Shri Sai Nidhi Pvt Ltd. had undertaken an SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority) project in Ghatkopar. The beneficiaries of the project are yet to get flats in the building, which was constructed last year.
“In the meantime, names of Mehta’s son Harsh and his relatives were inserted there as tenants. Mehta used his influence to get flats for his relatives. This is a conflict of interest.”
However, the Congress leader couldn’t complete his speech as BJP MLAs started shouting slogans raising an objection to the allegation.
Senior BJP leader and Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “He (Vikhe Patil) did not issue a notice to Mehta before raising the issue in the House today. Hence, the entire conversation should be expunged from the house record.”
However, the Speaker didn’t expunge the remarks.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister and senior BJP leader Girish Bapat said the CM would discuss the issue with the Opposition before setting up any inquiry against Mehta.
Raising the pitch for Mehta’s removal from the Cabinet, NCP leader Jayant Patil said there are fresh allegations against the minister every day and hence he should resign.
“The government is not giving any assurance about the inquiry but is protecting the tainted minister. This is a serious issue when the government keeps boasting about the corruption-free governance,” Patil said.
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said, “Another matter of corruption has come up against Mehta. The chief minister had assured that he would discuss with the Opposition leaders the inquiry in the corruption matter. But he did not invite anyone. The minister has admitted that he has committed the mistake. If Radheshyam Mopalwar is removed from the post (of the managing director of the state-undertaking MSRDC), then why not the minister?
“….Even Eknath Khadse (senior BJP leader) had resigned from the (Revenue) ministry after he was accused of corruption. Mehta should be removed from his post”.
Mehta has been under fire ever since he allegedly allowed unauthorised transfer of extra building rights in the SRA project in south Mumbai, originally granted to slum dwellers, to project-affected people, apparently to favour a developer.
He had wrongly mentioned on the file of the project that he had kept the chief minister in loop about the transfer, which was denied by Fadnavis.
Vikhe Patil on August 2 alleged that Mehta had allotted a plot in suburban Ghatkopar to Nirmal Holdings this year which was taken back from the developer in 2016 by the state government.
The ongoing monsoon session of the state legislature has been witnessing vociferous protests by the Congress and the NCP demanding Mehta’s ouster.
In the Legislative Council, where the opposition has an upper hand numerically, the Leader of Opposition Dhananjay Munde (NCP) had warned the government of not letting the House function unless Mehta is removed from his post.
However, the chief minister has defended the minister.
He yesterday told the Upper House that Mehta cannot be accused of corruption merely on the basis of the file noting made by him and that the allegations are “politically motivated”.