Chavan denies Adarsh link, summoned to New Delhi (Roundup)

Friday, October 29, 2010

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI - Even as Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan Friday denied any of his immediate family members were involved in the controversial Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, built on land meant for families of Kargil martyrs, and rejected calls for his resignation, he was called to meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

The party has refused to say anything about Chavan, whose mother-in-law and two other relatives own flats in the society. The summoning of the chief minister to the national capital to meet the party chief comes a day after Gandhi met Defence Minister A.K. Antony to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, a former navy chief, Admiral (retd) Manvendra Singh said he and the other ex-service chiefs would return the flat they had bought.

“We have no hesitation in returning the flats,” he said.

“At no stage were we aware that these flats were meant for Kargil war widows as claimed by some sections of the media. If this be so we have absolutely no hesitation whatsoever in returning these flats allotted to us to the authorities concerned,” he said.

Addressing media persons in Mumbai, Chavan hinted at a “political motive” behind the controversy, and said his mother-in-law, who passed away earlier this year, had got a membership to the society on her own merit.

Refuting allegations that his family owned around half a dozen flats in the scam tainted building, Chavan said there is no flat there in the name of his wife or daughters, but only some distant relatives.

They are Madanlal Sharma and Seema Sharma. “Distant relatives, if they are eligible, then there is no reason to deny them (flats). Seema Sharma and Madanlal Sharma are distant relatives. Today, they have informed in writing that they have resigned from the society,” he added.

He said that both have sent in their resignations from the membership of the society and have sought a refund.

As far as his mother-in-law Bhagwati Manoharlal Sharma was concerned, she had passed away earlier this year, Chavan pointed out.

When asked that one of the flats was listed in the name of S.B. Chavan, the chief minister shot back that his father S.B. Chavan, a former chief minister and union minister, had passed away five years ago. “There can be many people having that name,” Chavan said.

Dismissing the clamour by opposition parties for his resignation, Chavan said he had not been questioned on the issue by the party high command and so there was no reason for him to quit office.

“There is no question of my resignation. The CBI is probing the matter. I welcome the centre’s decision to order a probe. Let the CBI come out with its report. Why should I quit? As far as dragging my name into the incident is concerned, it is politically motivated,” Chavan told a hurriedly-convened news conference at Varsha, the Maharashtra chief minister’s official residence at Malabar Hill, here late in the evening.

The elite list of beneficiaries includes politicians, former chiefs of Services, bureaucrats and their kin.

Chavan also declared that the building got the “final clearance” when he was neither the revenue minister nor the chief minister.

“I have no role in the clearance…from the processing to the final clearance by the letter of intent to the allotment,” Chavan said in his first official reaction since the controversy erupted early this week.

“Presently, there are 102 members in the society, of whom 37 belong to the defence (forces). All the plans were approved by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)”, he said, putting the blame at the door of the civic body governed by the opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine.

Chavan found it strange that nobody raised objections when the construction of the 32-storeyed building was under way in the past five-six years.

However, he said that a new policy would be adopted by the state government on allotment of plots, considering the row over the Adarsh Society case.

Meanwhile, he said that society’s “occupancy certificate” has been revoked, pending clearance from the central government.

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