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Is the Adarsh investigation annoying Pawar?

Last updated on: July 31, 2012 18:32 IST

A senior source in the Maharashtra government reveals that the unfolding investigation in the Adarsh society scam is the main reason for the recent face-off between Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.

Sharad Pawar, the Nationalist Congress Party leader and Union agriculture minister, has taken the high ground in recent days, saying the Congress does not play a fair game with its allies, does not consults its allies in the United Progressive Alliance before taking major political decisions like the appointments of governors or nominations to the Rajya Sabha.

Pawar had stopped attending his office at Krishi Bhavan, where the ministry of agriculture is located, as he gave the Congress a deadline to address his complaints.

A well-informed source in the Maharashtra government told this reporter that the Enforcement Directorate is currently zeroing on two flats in the controversial Adarsh society in Colaba, south Mumbai, and its money trail.

This, the source added, is what is causing tensions between the NCP and the Congress.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, the income tax department and the Enforcement Directorate are all investigating transactions involving Adarsh flats.

The Enforcement Directorate, along with the CBI, is investigating benami transactions involving 24 of the 103 flats in the controversial Adarsh society. When the agencies examined the ownership documents, quite a few flats turned out to be benami.

Some flats have clerks, drivers and not so well-to-do relatives of political leaders as their owners. Funds had been deposited in the bank accounts of drivers and others to buy flats in the Adarsh society.

According to sources, Pawar explained his side of the story to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when they met recently.

Though the Congress and NCP have shared a tension-filled relationship in Maharashtra -- where they are part of a coalition government -- and at the Centre, Dr Singh and Pawar enjoy cordial relations.

If Adarsh's benami transactions are vigorously pursued, much muck may emerge about how the rich and powerful buy property, invest black money in real estate from dubious sources, and how black money is routed through various routes abroad to earn higher margins of profit or interest on it.

If additional chargesheets filed by the CBI have the names of NCP members in the benami property transactions, then it may be too late for Pawar to rescue the real buyers behind these deals.

Pawar's irritation with the Congress leadership is likely to increase in coming days. Pawar opposes former protege Sushil Kumar Shinde's promotion as India's home minister. Pawar enjoys a much higher political status and seniority in Maharashtra and it would be demeaning for him to be positioned behind Shinde -- who he brought into politics -- in protocol and even in wielding power in New Delhi.

Pawar heads the ministry of agriculture which does not give him membership of the important Cabinet Committee on Security, which Shinde -- if he is appointed home minister -- would be a member of.

The CBI has filed a 10,000-page chargesheet which named former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan among 13 others, including some senior bureaucrats and retired defence personnel, in the Adarsh Housing Society case.

A correspondent in New Delhi