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Adarsh U-turn, Ashok lone ex-CM to pay

Mumbai, Jan. 2: Nudged by Rahul Gandhi, the Maharashtra government today did a pirouette and partially accepted the recommendations of the judicial probe into the Adarsh housing scam, but Ashok Chavan alone among the indicted politicians will feel the heat.

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told a news conference that former chief minister Ashok, already chargesheeted by the CBI in the case, is the only one among the senior politicians named who can be tried.

The judicial commission indicted four former Congress chief ministers for allegedly bending rules to grant land and allow construction at the Adarsh society. But it named only Ashok among them as a beneficiary, saying flats were allotted to his relatives in return for his favours.

It said it had found no evidence of quid pro quo against the three other former chief ministers: (the late) Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde (now Union home minister), and Shivajirao Nilangekar-Patil.

Prithviraj said “no action is contemplated” against these three politicians — or the indicted former Nationalist Congress Party ministers of state, Rajesh Tope and Sunil Tatkare — as no “quid pro quo” could be established in their case.

“No criminality under any section of the law has been found against those found guilty of political patronage. Therefore, no action is contemplated against them,” the chief minister said.

The action against the 12 bureaucrats named in the report will, according to the commission’s recommendations, be limited to a “departmental inquiry”. As for Ashok Chavan, the government is yet to permit the CBI to prosecute him.

The lawyer activist who had filed the first complaint in the case with the anti-corruption bureau called the government move a “sham” but in political circles, it was being seen as a masterstroke by Prithviraj.

A senior Congress leader told The Telegraph the decision was as much an outcome of intra-party equations in Maharashtra as a last-ditch attempt to shrug off the taint of corruption ahead of the elections.

Ashok Chavan had to step down as chief minister when the scandal broke in 2012. Then Union minister Prithviraj, regarded by many in the state Congress as an outsider, was sent from Delhi to replace him — apparently at Rahul’s insistence.

Party peers say Prithviraj has since then worn an uneasy crown, with powerful party lobbies loyal to Ashok Chavan, Deshmukh and Shinde opposed to him.

“He had to go along with his cabinet’s decision to reject the commission’s report on December 20,” the leader said. But Prithviraj found a lifeline when Rahul openly sought a review of the state cabinet’s decision.

“By once rejecting the proposal, he had assuaged the lobby loyal to the indicted former chief ministers. By partially accepting the report, he has put Ashok Chavan and his men on the back foot while opening an escape route for the others.”

The Congress claimed the high moral ground today. “The government had rejected the report but the party, under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, thought otherwise…. The decision has underlined that the Congress is open to taking tough decisions to get rid of corruption,” party spokesperson Anant Gadgil said.

“The BJP will now have to ask themselves what stand they will take against those in their own party who are indicted in the Adarsh scam.”

BJP state president Vinod Tawde slammed the government move as “hogwash”.

The first complainant, IPS officer turned lawyer Y.P. Singh, said: “The recommendations of the commission are so mild that part acceptance of its report amounts to nothing. The decision… is an effort to shield Shinde, who would have had to resign if the entire contents of the report were accepted.”