Veteran Congress leader Ashok Chavan, who became Maharashtra Chief Minister twice, resigned from the party on Monday. What is interesting is why he resigned during his second stint as the chief minister.
Ashok Chavan, the son of Shankarrao Chavan, who was himself a two-time Chief Minister of the state, is a heavyweight politician from the Marathwada region.
His leaving the Opposition party just months ahead of the Lok Sabha election will be a massive jolt for it. His exit also comes very close to senior Maharashtra Congress leaders like Baba Siddique, Milind Deora and Amarnath Rajurkar quitting the party.
Ashok Chavan’s has had a chequered political history with shadows of scams. That was exactly what Congress leader Jairam Ramesh alluded to after the news of Chavan’s quitting from the primary membership of the party.
ASHOK CHAVAN AND THE ADARSH SCAM
Chavan reached his political zenith when he assumed the office of Chief Minister of Maharashtra in 2008.
This came after Vilasrao Deshmukh was removed as the chief minister following the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
His CM tenure, however, was not without controversy either. The Adarsh Housing Society Scam, which implicated several top bureaucrats and politicians, led to his resignation amid allegations of corruption.
The Adarsh Housing Society scam involved the construction of a high-rise building for war widows but was exploited by politicians, bureaucrats, and military officials to acquire flats. The alleged scam, which was unearthed in 2010, showed irregularities in land allocation, environmental violations and conflicts of interest.
Ashok Chavan’s association with the Adarsh Housing Society scam further tarnished his political career. Chavan faced allegations of impropriety regarding the ownership of three flats owned by his family.
The scandal revealed that these flats were part of a more significant accumulation of personal wealth and assets by Chavan and his family, estimating their total worth to be around Rs 2,200 crore.
MOVE NOT LINKED TO WHITE PAPER ON ADARSH: CHAVAN
Ashok Chavan carries the taint of Adarsh scam.
He was one of the 14 people to be named by the Central Bureau of Investigation in its FIR in 2011.
“When friends and colleagues leave a political party that has given them much — perhaps much more they deserved — it is always a matter of anguish. But to those who are vulnerable, THAT Washing Machine will always prove more attractive than ideological commitment or personal loyalties,” said Jairam Ramesh on Monday after Chavan resigned from the party.
He referred to the BJP as the ‘washing machine’, meaning that for those with corruption charges, the party in power at the Centre would seem attractive.
The Congress has alleged the misuse of central probe agencies by the BJP-led Centre in pressuring opposition leaders.
Ajit Pawar, who faces multiple corruption cases, is another politician who split the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), founded by his uncle Sharad Pawar, and joined the Maharashtra coalition as a partner of the BJP.
On February 8, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman placed in Parliament a ‘white paper’ on the economy, highlighting the NDA government’s 10-year performance.
Sitharaman also listed the UPA-era scams in the ‘white paper’. The Adarsh scam, in which Ashok Chavan was named, was among the corruption cases listed by Sitharaman.
Ashok Chavan, however, refuted the Adarsh scam link to his move to leave the Congress.
“The white paper of PM on Adarsh and my resignation have no connection,” Chavan said.
ASHOK CHAVAN ALLOTTMENT OF PETROL PUMPS
Ashok Chavan, the son of Shankarrao Chavan, began as a student leader at the University of Pune, where he held the University Representative’s post.
Ashok Chavan’s family, directly or through relatives and aides, have been known to own real estate worth crores of rupees in Nanded and Mumbai, including more than 25 automobile showrooms, and residential and commercial spaces.
It isn’t just the Adarsh scam, Ashok Chavan has faced several allegations of corruption and nepotism.
At the start of his political career, he faced accusations of nepotism in the allotment of petrol pumps to family members. The Supreme Court cancelled the allotment of the petrol pumps to Chavan’s uncle’s son-in-law in 1993.
Chavan’s family members also hold majority shares in a few sugar factories in Nanded. In the early 2000s, they were collectively worth Rs 2,000 crore, on around 200 acre of land.
Over time, Ashok Chavan’s wealth has been a topic of discussion, with his net worth increasing from Rs 11.78 crore in 2004 to Rs 24.61 crore in 2009 to more than Rs 50 crore in 2019, based on affidavits filed before the Election Commission.
Chavan was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Nanded seat in 1987 and to the Maharashtra Legislative Council in 1992. While in the state, he served in portfolios like Public Works, Urban Development, Transport, Ports, Cultural Affairs, Industries, Mining and Home Affairs in various state ministries.
Ashok Chavan, a known face of the state politics of Maharashtra, tried going national as early as the late 1980s. He faced a defeat in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections, his first attempt to get to New Delhi. Rumours suggested that his loss was due to being labelled as an “agencydar” (one who owns many agencies).
Although he went on to win the Lok Sabha election from Nanded in 2014, he lost again in 2019.
“I am surprised about Ashok Chavan. He was participating in seat distribution until yesterday, and suddenly he switched. I think he has gone for the Rajya Sabha. Everyone seems to be thinking of themselves,” Uddhav Thackeray of Shiv Sena (UBT) said.
Now, he might make it to national politics again through the Rajya Sabha ticket that Uddhav Thackeray is talking about.