Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday sought to turn the tables on the opposition when he ordered a judicial probe into the Navi Mumbai land allotment case and 200 similar allotments during the tenure of the previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government.
As many as 200 cases of land allotment to project-affected persons (PAPs) of the Koyna Dam project were cleared by the previous government, Fadnavis said in the assembly.
Land allotment in Navi Mumbai was carried out in accordance with the rules and provisions laid down by the previous government, Fadnavis said in response to the opposition demand for a judicial inquiry into the case only.
The chief minister was particularly stinging on his predecessor and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan who had alleged that the Navi Mumbai land deal had “political patronage". Fadnavis described Chavan as a “gentleman" and advised him to not believe what his colleagues told him without examining the facts themselves.
“There is absolutely no wrongdoing in the Navi Mumbai land allotment. The City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), chief minister, and revenue minister have nothing to do with the allotment. Yet, as the opposition has demanded an inquiry, we will certainly order a judicial probe into this matter along with 200 other cases," Fadnavis told the House.
Leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil raised the issue demanding adjournment of other business to discuss the land allotment. Vikhe-Patil and Chavan alleged that the chief minister’s office was directly involved in the land transaction of this magnitude, which they said had caused a loss of ₹ 1,700 crore to ₹ 2,000 crore to the state exchequer.
Chavan had on 2 July held a press conference in Mumbai along with All India Congress Committee (AICC) spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam where the Congress alleged that 24 acres of land worth ₹ 1,767 crore near the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport in Kharghar was sold to a private builder close to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and legislator Prasad Lad just for ₹ 3.6 crore.
The land was first allotted to eight PAPs by the Raigad collector who had no authority to do so as the land belonged to Cidco, the Congress leaders had alleged. They claimed that the builder purchased this land from the eight PAPs for ₹ 15 lakh per acre and that the chief minister’s office had facilitated the transaction. Lad has since filed a defamation suit against Chavan, Nirupam, and Surjewala demanding ₹ 500 crore in damages.
Fadnavis said the land in Navi Mumbai was owned by the state government for the last five decades before it was allotted to eight PAPs in February 2018. He confirmed that the PAPs had immediately sold this land to a builder.
“The land was owned by the government for 50 years. Cidco is only the planning authority and not land owner. There are no Cidco land rates and the current market rate of the land as per the ready reckoner is ₹ 5.30 crore. It is agricultural land which the builder has bought as such," Fadnavis said.
“During your rule, 200 pieces of land were allotted by the Raigad collector to PAPs who also promptly sold them off to private builders, educational institutes, and other parties," he said.
The chief minister told the House that the Bombay high court had in 1998 allowed the Koyna Dam PAPs to sell the land after allotment. The chief minister reminded Chavan that in July 2012 when the latter was the chief minister, the government had issued a notification for allotting Class 1 land to PAPs to facilitate its sale. He said the previous governments, including the Congress-NCP government during which Chavan was the chief minister, had allotted 606 hectares of land in Raigad district to 627 PAPs.
“All these allotments were done by the Raigad collector as per the law and rules formed by the previous governments. All these lands are in 1.5 km range of the upcoming airport. So can I ask if the files came to you? Did these allotments have your blessings? The fact is that it is your government which gave the collector the authority to allot lands and hence these files don’t come to the chief minister," Fadnavis told Chavan.
Hitting back at Vikhe-Patil who demanded his resignation, Fadnavis told the leader of the opposition that he would have to seek “retrospectively" the resignations of many previous chief ministers including three from the Congress including Chavan. “Hum kaanch ke ghar mein nahi rahte, yaad rakhna. Jo sheeshe ke ghar mein rahte hain woh dusron par patthar nahi phenkte (Mind you, I don’t live in a glass house. Those who do should not throw stones at others)," Fadnavis told Vikhe-Patil demanding his resignation for levelling false allegations against the chief minister.