In an apparent bid to put pressure on the Congress high command over "injustice" against former chief minister Ashok Chavan a group of 40 Congress MLAs from Maharashtra are planning to meet party President Sonia Gandhi with a charter of demand in a couple of days.
This group is keeping tightly under wraps their future course of action in the event Congress President Sonia Gandhi doesn't grant them an audience or heed to their charter of demand.
Among other things this group has questioned the legality of CBI naming Chavan in an FIR over the Adarsh issue when the state government has already appointed a two-member committee, headed by retired high court judge J A Patil and former chief secretary P Subramaniam, to conduct a judicial probe in the matter.
Former food and civil supplies minister Abdul Sattar, a close confidante of Ashok Chavan, told rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore that he expects at least 40 MLAs to accompany him when the Congress president gives him time to discuss the issues raised by him in a letter of solidarity (see related story) submitted to Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Incidentally, Sattar, who is leading this campaign in support of Ashok Chavan, could not find a berth in the ministry constituted by Prithviraj Chavan after he took over the reins of the state government following Ashok Chavan's resignation in the wake of Adarsh scam.
When asked if this group could jeopardise the future of the state government Sattar ducked by saying "This is not the question of just one individual. The point is who has the right to decide who is guilty or not: The CBI or the state government appointed committee?
What's the purpose of your letter to the CM?
The Maharshtra government had appointed a two-member committee to probe into the alleged Adarsh scam, which has been mandated to look into land ownership and allotment and environmental violations (This two-member committee will submit it's report in three months to Prithviraj Chavan).
When this committee is investigating the case then is it appropriate for the CBI to supersede it? Does the law make any provision for CBI to investigate cases suo motu (on its own will) without the Maharashtra government handing over the probe to the CBI?
We have raised these and other issues in our letter to chief minister.
What if the committee appointed by the state government gives a clean chit to Ashokrao? Does it make sense to have a central agency file an FIR against him and other committee investigate the matter?
In these circumstances was there any need for the state government to appoint this committee in the first place? They should have directly handed over the entire case to the CBI.
Now, what is the rationale for the existence of this committee? The state government should scrap this committee and hand over the matter to the CBI.
But if this two-member committee finds out that the people named are involved in wrongdoing in the Adarsh land scam then we will accept it.
We have mentioned all these points in our letter to the chief minister.
But in its FIR the CBI has named Ashok Chavan as an accused?
That's what our point is. Unless the state government hands over the matter to the CBI the latter cannot interfere suo motu. This is what we have seen in many past cases.
The state government and the chief minister have filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court that they have named a two-member committee to probe the matter and would want to find out the truth through this committee and not the CBI.
And the others (the CBI and the defence ministry) are investigating if the land belonged to the defence or any of their personnel are involved in wrongdoings in the Adarsh land scam or not.
Do you think that Ashok Chavan is being framed in this case?
Yes, yes. That's the reason so many legislators are standing behind him. Why are they hounding only one man? Let the committee come out with its findings and you will know. And until this committee finishes its probe nobody should be considered guilty.
The allegation is that he (Ashok Chavan) recommended his mother-in-law's name (for getting her Adarsh membership). So what? His (Ashok Chavan's) father-in-law was a defence personnel and who should the society accept as a member is their right.
Recommending somebody for the membership of a society doesn't amount to corruption. It could have been a mistake but we can't come to any conclusions unless the committee looks into the matter minutely. Till that time holding him guilty is an injustice to him.
What demands have you put forth in this letter to the chief minister?
One of our main demands is we want an audience with Sonia Gandhi to discuss this issue. We want to inform Soniaji about our feelings.
What are your other demands?
I am sorry but I can't tell you more. What's the point of making those demands public before meeting Soniaji?
Are you all going to resign from your membership?
Till the time we speak to our leader and find out what her response is to our feelings, will she give us time to discuss these issues or not and our response to her action are all matters of the future.
But we strongly feel that we should express our feelings before the high command.
Are you getting more MLAs to your side?
A lot of MLAs called us after the news (about the letter of solidarity for Ashok Chavan) broke and wanted to know why we didn't tell them about it because they too wanted to join us.
How many more MLAs are willing to express their support for this letter?
I expect as many as 40 MLAs will go to Delhi (to meet the Congress president). Our efforts are on and so far 25 MLAs have signed the letter. We are expecting 15 more MLAs to sign it. But till the time we get these 15 on board we can't tell anything more.
Madam will be on a three-day tour of Uttar Pradesh from Saturday and when she comes back our demand will reach her and after that when she gives us time to meet her. We can discuss these issues only after we meet her.
What was Prithviraj Chavan's response to your letter?
We spoke about the matter for 35 minutes and brought the legal anomalies in this case to his notice. We have asked him to get an opinion. He might consult the state's advocate general on this issue.
What are your plans if the Congress president refuses to meet you?
There is no point talking about it today. As per our plan we are taking the matter ahead in a step-by-step manner.
Do you think the Congress-NCP government's future is at stake in the light of your letter of support for the former chief minister?
This is not the question of just one individual. The point is who has the right to decide who is guilty or not: The CBI or the state government appointed committee?