Kalmadi removed as Secretary of Congress Parliamentary Party

The Congress high command on Tuesday accepted Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan's offer to resign over the Adarsh Housing Society scam, pending inquiry.

At a meeting with the high command on October 30, Mr. Chavan offered to quit owning moral responsibility as three of his relatives had flats in the Adarsh society.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Chavan, accompanied by his wife and some senior Cabinet colleagues, tendered his resignation to Governor K. Sankaranarayanan, who accepted it. He will, however, continue as caretaker Chief Minister until the party appoints a new candidate for the post.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told journalists here that the Congress Legislature Party, which met late on Tuesday night, passed a one-line resolution authorising party president Sonia Gandhi to decide on the next Chief Minister.

Besides Mr. Mukherjee and A.K. Antony, who are the Central Observers, the meeting was attended by Mr. Chavan, Narayan Rane, Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil and others.

The observers have left for New Delhi to brief the high command. The new CLP leader is likely to be announced on Wednesday.

The names doing the rounds to succeed Mr. Chavan are Union Minister of State Prithviraj Chavan, State Ministers Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil and Balasaheb Thorat and Union Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

Mr. Chavan told journalists at his official residence that controversies were part of the travails of political life, and he was “100 per cent sure [that he would] come out clean” in the scam. He said that in politics there were many ups and downs and he did not think this development was a setback. He said he vested his faith in the high command, which decided what was best for the party.

Defending the State government, Mr. Chavan said the land on which the Adarsh society stands belonged to the government. He was optimistic that the probe would bring out the truth.

Damage control

Smita Gupta reports from New Delhi:

Besides taking action against Mr. Chavan, the Congress sacked Pune MP Suresh Kalmadi as secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Party, minutes before the winter session of Parliament began. The party hopes that the action against the two leaders will take the sting out of the expected Opposition onslaught on the UPA government for their alleged roles in the Adarsh society and Commonwealth Games scams.

The decisions came after Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Antony, who constitute the two-man committee looking into Mr. Chavan's complicity in the Adarsh society scam, met Ms. Gandhi on Tuesday morning. Evidently, the Congress decided that politically it needed to send out a strong message about the need for probity in public life, even though the investigations into the scams are under way. Asked whether Mr. Chavan's exit could not have waited till the enquiries were completed, a Cabinet Minister said, “We could have brazened it out but we wanted to send out a message of zero tolerance against corruption.”