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Chavan forced to do a flip-flop

Nagpur, Dec. 27: Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was today compelled to somersault 24 hours after he ruled out a review of the cabinet decision to reject the Adarsh report.

The Opposition BJP-Shiv Sena combine is now demanding his resignation.

“I will consult the cabinet,” Chavan told reporters in Delhi soon after Rahul Gandhi’s “polite” snub.

Yesterday, the chief minister had said in Mumbai: “There was no question of reviewing the cabinet decision.”

Chavan has been trying to protect his clean image by iterating that the decision to reject the report was arrived at by an overwhelming majority within the cabinet.

Rahul’s statement has put Chavan in an awkward position. He will now have to explain the sudden change in his stand. Worse, he must find a middle ground to keep his cabinet colleagues happy as well as obey the party high command.

The 670-page Adarsh report, which named four Congress chief ministers, several ministers and at least a dozen bureaucrats for colluding to push the project in violation of rules, was rejected by the government without citing any reason.

The one-line action taken report, which was tabled along with the Adarsh report, merely said the report was unacceptable to the government.

The Congress’s long-term ally, Sharad Pawar’s NCP, quickly distanced itself from the cabinet decision. If the chief minister wants the cabinet to reconsider the panel’s findings on the scandal, it will support such a move, the NCP said.

“It’s for the CM to move such a resolution before the cabinet and the NCP will consider it,” spokesperson Nawab Malik said.

“But the Congress central leadership must act against those people who bring upon us such awkward situations,” Malik said, indirectly attacking Chavan at a time the NCP has been speaking of his “indecisiveness”.

The NCP favoured the report’s acceptance in view of the prevailing public mood against corruption and next year’s elections. The Maharashtra Assembly elections will be held in October-November 2014. The NCP feels that Adarsh would be an issue in both the elections in Maharashtra.

The chairperson of the panel, retired judge J.A. Patil, has termed the government’s decision as “unfortunate”. “We gave many recommendations to correct the system so that such a thing does not happen in the future,” Patil said. “It’s up to the government to act on them.”

Some Congress leaders felt that the high command should also shoulder responsibility. “The Adarsh report was submitted several months ago; the state government knew its contents and, given its ramifications, even the central leadership must have been privy to the report,” said a senior Congress leader in Mumbai. “I don’t think Chavan could have taken a decision to reject the report without the high command’s go-ahead,” he said.

Such claims are gaining credence also because of the stand taken by the governor. K. Sankaranarayanan, the governor, had refused permission to the CBI to prosecute former chief minister Ashok Chavan in the case.

The Adarsh panel found that Ashok Chavan had given the letter of intent to the society and occupancy certificate in violation of rules in return for three flats in the names of his close relatives.

The cabinet’s decision was also seen as an attempt to shield Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. The panel said Shinde gave the letter of land allotment to the society when he was chief minister in 2003-04.