What Ashok Chavan’s affidavit did not say..


Former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan’s affidavit in front of the commission to inquire into the alleged Adarsh scam made the following arguments with his affidavit:

No silver lining in sight for former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan. Photo courtesy: The Hindu

a. He was Maharashtra’s Revenue minister from October 18 , 1999 to January 16, 2003

b. From January 20, 2003 till October 19, 2004 and again from November 1, 2o04 to December 4, 2008, he held cabinet portfolios of Transport and Industries

c. He was elevated as the Chief Minister on December 8, 2008 where he continued till November 9, 2010

d. Decision of allotment of the Adarsh society land (which happened in 2004) was that of the Chief Minister’s office & not his

e. In June 2000, members of the society met him for allotment of land. And he did what was expected of him – forwarded the file to his department for necessary action

f. In July 2002, the Adarsh file came back to him and on the advice of his Principal Secretary, he recommended the case further to the CMO

g. Letter of Intent was issued to the Adarsh society, two days after he moved out from the influential Revenue minister’s chair and the actual allotment took place much later

h. He neither suggested/discussed/decided anything whatsoever on inclusion of civilian members into the society

Point ‘h’

To understand the final point, we need to rewind a little to the meeting of Ashok Chavan, the then Revenue minister and the members of the Adarsh society in, early June 2000.

What has always been on record in the Adarsh case is a letter dated 2/6/2000, which was written and signed by the Secretary and Chief Promoter of Adarsh, Brig. (Retd) MM Wanchu and Mr. RC Thakur respectively.

Addressed to Chavan and accepted by his department (indicated by the stamping and notings on it), it was this letter which sounded the death-knell for Chavan as the CM, last November when the Adarsh issue blew up. So, what did it say? In the words of Thakur and Wanchu, it says,

“Further to our letter dated 3/1/2000 and personal meeting in your chamber with office bearers of our society on 2/6/2000 (meeting and letter on the same day, what efficiency!), we wish to submit the following for your kind consideration: 1. That we are agreeable to accommodate civilian members (members from outside defence services) in our society to the extent of 40% i.e 19 members against 31 members from the defence services.”.

I fail to understand that if Mr. Chavan never ‘suggested/discussed/decided’ on civilian membership, for what purpose and why would the society become ‘agreeable’ to let go of its founder members for unknown civilians? This letter where the society becomes ‘agreeable’ bears ample number of signatures from Chavan’s own department (if not his own) with positive notings, can he claim to be not aware? And finally, shouldn’t Chavan, who claims to have acted in a bona fide manner, have noticed and questioned when the society (meant ‘for welfare of serving and retired persons from Defence Services, as per the subject line of the said letter) suddenly decided to change its stripes for civilians? No answers there.

Truth lies within

Accessed using the Right to Information (RTI) Act, an internal noting sheet of the Revenue department prepared by the Under Secretary, Revenue department on June 20, 2000 throws more light.

The internal note prepared by the under secretary of the Revenue and Forests department when Chavan was the boss there

Unlike the previous document, which Chavan can claim as an outside document, this note emanates from the department when he was chairing it. The official while forwarding that note to his colleagues has clearly mentioned (in Marathi) that the ‘Adarsh society vide its letter of June 2, 2000, has agreed to induct 19 other members apart from 31 from the defence services.’ And not surprisingly, the official, in his note, ends with, “That this proposal be quickly looked into and resolved is a direction from the Revenue minister (Ashok Chavan) and the CM (Vilasrao Deshmukh).

Return of Chavan: Now, as the CM

The affidavit of Mr. Chavan would make you believe that once he left the seat as the state’s Revenue minister, he had nothing to do with the Adarsh society. But that seems too far-fetched a conclusion.

His affidavit states he was the CM from December of 2008 to November 2010. This was a critical period for Adarsh as it neared physical completion. As has been the trend with Chief Ministers in Maharashtra since the time of Sharad Pawar, Chavan too did not let go of the Urban Development portfolio. That apart, he also was the chairman of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which incidentally remains the Special Planning Authority (SPA) in the region where Adarsh stands today. Thus he effectively held sway over decisions concerning the state’s urban development and construction.

Adarsh society, Colaba, Mumbai. Photo courtesy: The Hindu

Rudely woken up to a post-26/11 era, the Army and the Navy made several representations highlighting the lack of clarity on the membership of this society given its immensely strategic location. (Apart from being able to monitor the entire Navy nagar, from the higher floors of Adarsh one can keep a track of the Western Fleet’s movement as it overlooks the navigational channel of the harbour) Meeting with no concrete answers, both the agencies then wrote to the MMRDA to NOT grant an Occupation Certificate (OC) to Adarsh unless they comply with the security audit these two agencies were wanting to conduct.

Notwithstanding the outrage over 26/11 and its lessons, the MMRDA threw caution to the wind and granted an OC to Adarsh, leaving the forces humiliated. It is worth noting that the Metropolitan Commissioner of MMRDA, Mr. Ratnakar Gaikwad, who over-rode these concerns to grant an OC to Adarsh was elevated to the post of the Chief Secretary very recently.

Coming back to the point, Mr. Chavan would do well to explain his take when, under him, the MMRDA suddenly got the gall to sideline the defence forces and gallop ahead to please the society. Here too, the answers are simply not there.

‘No brief to comment on this’

Mr. Birendra Saraf, who filed the affidavit on Mr. Chavan’s behalf informed me that he did not have any brief to comment on media queries over Mr. Chavan’s affidavit. He thus requested leave.

Who made it in with the ‘civilians’?

A cursory glance at the two lists, first prepared in the year 2000 when Adarsh was an all-defence society and second prepared in July 2003, in a letter prepared for the Mumbai Collector’s office throws up an interesting picture.

Among the known names who made it in were former chief of navy, Admiral Madhvendra Singh, Southern command boss Lt. Gen GS Sihota, politician Kanhaiyalal Gidwani (along with two more flats for his two sons), bureaucrat PV Deshmukh who was handling the Adarsh file, apart from a host of rather unknown men.

Those who lost out

It was in fact the members from the Defence Estates community who found themselves roofless with the revision of the list as five of them were marched out. Ironical, given that it was their own junior officer, RC Thakur (ex-SDO in Defence Estates dept) who scripted the list. Lastly there were a few more officers of the army who too were asked to make way.

Those who benefitted

It is no secret who all gained by making the society ‘agreeable’ to induct civilian members. At the time when Chavan was made to quit, more than one of his relatives held flats in the Adarsh society. And he wasn’t the last one to benefit from the obscene nepotism of the Adarsh brand.

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