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Oppn Guns for Maharashtra CM Over 2021 Nagpur Land Allotment, He Denies Wrongdoing

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Tuesday faced calls from the Opposition for resignation after the Bombay High Court’s status quo order on allotment of government land in Nagpur when he was the urban development minister in the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi dispensation, but he denied any wrongdoing and rejected the demand to quit.

The issue figured prominently in the state legislature, which is having its winter session in Nagpur, where members of the Opposition staged demonstrations in the Vidhan Bhavan complex against the Shinde-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government.

They accused the Shinde-BJP government of being corrupt and demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister, who assumed the top office in June after the collapse of the MVA government following a revolt by a section of Shiv Sena MLAs.

Speaking in the Assembly, Shinde said when the matter came to him as an appellate authority, he did not pass any order to reduce or increase the rate of the land in question and insisted that the price be charged as per existing government rules.

The CM said when the last week’s HC order was brought to his notice, he cancelled his land allotment order dated April 20, 2021 (when he was urban development minister in the MVA government).

“I did not misuse my power as the urban development minister (in the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi govermnent). I have also not interfered in any court order,” he said.

The chief minister currently handles the urban development department among several other portfolios.

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has ordered status quo on a decision taken by Shinde, when he was the urban development minister, allotting land meant for slum dwellers to private persons.

A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and M W Chandwani, in its order passed on December 14, noted that the court since 2004 has been monitoring the land allotments made by the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) to politicians and other influential individuals.

This was after a petition was filed by Nagpur-based social activist Anil Wadpalliwar, alleging the NIT, which comes under the urban development department, gave away land to politicians and others at meagre rates.

Addressing a press conference, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Uddhav Thackeray demanded the resignation of Shinde citing the HC order and said the matter was serious.

Thackeray said the matter was subjudice and the state government should not intervene in it.

“We oppose this intervention by the government and the minister related to this case is now the chief minister. Hence, there is a possibility that when the government puts its submission in the court there could be intervention by them,” said the former CM.

Another Shiv Sena (UBT) leader and former minister Aaditya Thackeray, talking to reporters in the legislature complex, demanded an inquiry into the land allotment decision.

In the Legislative Council, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis stoutly defended the government and denied any wrongdoing on part of the CM.

Fadnavis said their government does not give costly plots at lower rates to anyone.

The Upper House proceedings were adjourned for the day after arguments between members of the Opposition and ruling parties over the matter.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Ajit Pawar (NCP), Congress leaders Nana Patole, Prithiviraj Chavan, Balasaheb Thorat, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) legislator Aaditya Thackeray and other members staged demonstrations in the legislature complex.

In the Legislative Council, Leader of Opposition Ambadas Danve said the NIT had reserved a plot measuring 4.5 acres in Nagpur for the construction of houses for rehabilitation of slum dwellers.

“However, former urban development minister Eknath Shinde, who is now the chief minister, had issued an order to hand over the land parcel to 16 persons at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore. The current cost of the land is Rs 83 crore,” he claimed.

“It is very serious matter. The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court had already put a stay on the hand over of the land and the case was going on. Despite that, Shinde, as the urban development minister, took the decision to hand over the land, which is a serious interference in the court’s work,” said Danve, who is part of the Shiv Sena (UBT).

Deputy CM Fadnavis said Shinde gave his order (of land allotment) in April 2021, saying all the 16 persons should be treated at par with the other parties whose plots have been approved.

They should pay the same amount and development charges as paid by the earlier parties and should be given the possession after completion of lease agreement of the plots immediately, Fadnavis said, defending the CM.

“Surprisingly, when the decision was taken on April 20, 2021, nobody raised objection for the next few months,” he added.

“The court has not issued strictures but some claims have been made by the amicus curiae before the court. However, the court only requested the state government to submit its response and also asked the state government not to involve any third party in this case. It also asked that status quo be maintained in the land case,” he said.

Speaking to reporters in the legislature complex later, Shinde said the Opposition was seeking his resignation over the land allotment issue as it wants to mask its failure to win the gram panchayat polls.

“They have no right to ask for my resignation. They did not ask for resignation from those who went to jail. This is an attempt to mask their failure in the gram panchayat polls,” Shinde said.

Addressing reporters along with Shinde, Deputy Chief Minister Fadnavis said the “resounding victory” of the ruling coalition in recently-held gram panchayat polls is the vindication of decisions taken by the Shinde-BJP government.

“The Opposition wanted to hit and run by making allegations against Shinde, but the government gave them a befitting reply,” he said.

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