Mumbai, Aug 3: In a blow to the clean image of the Maharashtra government, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday removed MSRDC chief Radheyshyam Mopalwar, an IAS officer alleged to have amassed Rs 800 crore in disproportionate assets, till a probe against him is completed.
In another setback, the state Opposition parties produced a letter that the Prime Minister’s Office has sought a report from the state Chief Secretary on allegations of disproportionate assets against the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) head.
The PMO’s communication followed a letter by ruling BJP legislator Anil Gote who complained of Mopalwar allegedly having amassed disproportionate assets of over Rs 800 crore, spelling embarrassment for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance.
The 1995-batch IAS officer was in-charge of Fadnavis’ pet showpiece projects, including the Rs 46,000-crore Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway.
The fast-paced developments came after the opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party pushed the ruling BJP-SS saffron combine into a corner on the alleged corrupt dealing of Mopalwar and demanded that the government take action.
“Mopalwar will not continue in his post till the probe in the matter is over,” Fadnavis informed both houses of the legislature, in what was construed as a major victory for the opposition.
The climbdown came a day after the ruling BJP-SS legislators ‘walked out’ of the Legislative Council after the Mopalwar issue hotted up with an alleged clip surfacing in which the officer was allegedly heard fixing a deal.
However, Fadnavis asserted that the allegations of corruption against Mopalwar pertained to his tenure during the previous Congress-NCP regime – which had appointed him to the post.
“It was during your tenure that he was given plum posting,” Fadnavis said, attempting to turn the tables on the opposition. He announced the probe against Mopalwar would be completed within a month.
Not satisfied with the announcement, Leader of Opposition (Congress) Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil clamoured for the suspension of Mopalwar and demanded that Housing Minister Prakash Mehta, whose name figures in some other scams, should be asked to resign or sacked from the cabinet.
“Mehta is exposed. He made notings on files even without consulting the CM. He should resign or made to quit and Mopalwar should be suspended pending the probe,” Vikhe-Patil demanded.
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar wanted to know why there were different yardsticks, saying in the past (former) Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse was made to resign, but Mehta continues in office.
However, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar intervened and said that Khadse had tendered his resignation (in June 2016).
On the letter from the PMO asking for a report on the allegations against Mopalwar, NCP leader Jayant Patil said “it is shocking that the letter was written by a BJP MLA.
“The PM promises a transparent administration. Why is the CM trying to save Mopalwar. You can make him (Mopalwar) the chief secretary, we have no problems, but remove him as the needle of suspicion points at him,” Patil said.
Interestingly, in the late 1990s, when Mopalwar headed the Stamps Department, his name had figured in the Rs 2000 crore fake stamp-papers scam masterminded by Abdul Karim Telgi (convicted for life), but the officer maintained that he was actually the ‘whistle-blower’ who exposed it.