In a U-turn, Maharashtra govt. accepts commission report

Five days after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi criticised the Maharashtra government’s rejection of the Adarsh Commission of Inquiry report, the State Cabinet revised its stand and accepted the report on Thursday.

However, the Action Taken Report (ATR), issued upon acceptance of the report recommends no action against the six politicians indicted by the Commission for extending “political patronage” to the controversial building project on the grounds that there were “no allegations of criminality” against them.

The 12 IAS officers named for violating All India Service Conduct Rules will be proceeded against. The Commission’s report indicted four former Congress Chief Ministers, including Sushilkumar Shinde, now Union Home Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Ashok Chavan and Shivajirao Nilangekar Patil.

It had also indicted two NCP Ministers of State, Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope. In the case of the latter two, the ATR goes a step further and says they had not dealt with any files related to the building. The Bharatiya Janata Party was quick to denounce this.

“Why have only bureaucrats been held guilty. Why have politicians been spared? The government is trying to shield the corrupt,” alleged State BJP leader Eknath Khadse.

In Delhi, BJP MP Arun Jaitley said that “such a cover-up can only defy public opinion and the popular expectation of cleaner and credible politics”.

Senior government sources told The Hindu that it was difficult for the State to recommend strong action against the politicians as a serving Union Minister was among those named by the Commission, and this is why the tabling of the report was delayed until after the Parliament session ended.

In the case of Mr. Ashok Chavan, named by the Commission and also chargesheeted by the CBI for granting favours in exchange for flats for his relatives, the ATR recommends no further action by the state. “The cases of quid pro quo named in the report are being proceeded against by the CBI and there is no need for filing two FIRs in the same case,” said Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

But just a few weeks ago, Governor K. Sankaranarayan turned down the CBI’s request to prosecute Mr. Chavan for cheating and criminal conspiracy, though a Prevention of Corruption case is still pending against him.

Senior Congress leaders admit that the entire episode has dented the image of the Chief Minister and done little to improve the credibility of the Congress.

“The party comes across as indecisive. Accepting the report belatedly does not really help with damage control,” a senior Cabinet Minister told The Hindu. The indecision within the Congress about the report also gave its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party, the opportunity to score political points.

“We congratulate the State government. It’s wrong to say the report was accepted only partially,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik.