Maria's Lalit mystery thickens

Nobody told me: Ex-CM

By Samyabrata Ray Goswami
  • Published 23.06.15
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Maria

Mumbai, June 22: Prithviraj Chavan, who was Maharashtra chief minister when Rakesh Maria met Lalit Modi in London in July last year, has said neither the Mumbai police commissioner nor the then home minister had informed him of the interaction overseas.

Maharashtra's home minister then was R.R. Patil, an NCP leader who has since passed away. The NCP, founded by Sharad Pawar, and the Congress were sharing power then.

Maria had said in a statement on Saturday that he had kept "the Home Minister, M.S." (possibly meaning "Maharashtra State") apprised of the meeting with Lalit after the police chief returned home.

Chavan's disclosure - read along with the statement of Maria - has prompted some local leaders to insist in private that an officer as senior and high-profile as Maria would never have met Lalit without being nudged by someone powerful enough to do so.

"He (Maria) did not speak to me about the meeting with Lalit Modi in London after returning from London. Nor had he talked to me about it before going. And neither had my home minister mentioned anything about this meeting to me ever.... Such visits are cleared at the level of the home minister," Chavan told The Telegraph from Delhi.

In his statement on Saturday, Maria had acknowledged meeting Lalit and his advocate in July 2014 after a picture of him and his wife meeting the former IPL czar in London had surfaced in the media.

Chavan

The police chief had claimed that he met Lalit at the "insistence" of the former IPL chief's advocate who said his client and family "faced a grave security threat in London" and that the meeting lasted "barely 15-20 minutes".

"On my return to India, I immediately brought the above details to the notice of the Home Minister, M.S. and also maintained the requisite Confidential record of the same," Maria had said in the weekend statement.

Three days before Maria's meeting with Lalit became public, NCP leader and Mumbai Cricket Association boss Pawar had said he had met the former IPL chief, who is facing cases in India, "around mid-May this year and asked him to return to India to face the law".

Yesterday, Maharashtra's current chief minister, the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis, asked Maria to give an explanation about the meeting. Maria met the chief minister tonight.

Sources in the BJP, however, said any substantial action against Maria over the "impropriety" of the meeting might not be possible immediately.

The chief minister's hands, they said, are tied because of the recent revelations that party leaders Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje had both helped Lalit with recommendations.