Mumbai: Shiv Sena MLA and State Industries Minister Subhash Desai, accused of graft by the Opposition, offered to resign but his request was turned down by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday.
The development comes a day after Mr. Fadnavis announced a probe by the Lokayukta against BJP legislator and State Housing Minister Prakash Mehta, who has been accused by the Opposition of impropriety in a slum redevelopment project here.
The Opposition has accused Mr. Desai of violating norms while allegedly denotifying lands acquired by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) in Nashik. Reacting to allegations against Mr. Desai on Friday, Mr. Fadnavis had said the government will request the Lokayukta to consider the case. If that doesn’t work out, an independent probe would be conducted, he said.
Mr. Desai, 75, a Sena veteran, said he met Mr. Fadnavis and offered to resign from the State Cabinet. “I met the Chief Minister at his official residence Varsha with my resignation letter and requested him to relieve me until proved innocent. However, he refused to accept my resignation and said I need not resign. The CM said there would be an independent inquiry and until the result is out for everyone to see, I should continue performing my duty,” he said, adding he has decided to co-operate with the inquiry and accept its result.
“I met Uddhavji [Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray] on Friday and apprised him of my decision to resign. He spoke to the CM and both decided that my resignation would not be accepted,” he said.
On Saturday, Mr. Thackeray backed Desai and said those levelling allegations are themselves “stuck knee-deep” in corruption. “It is dangerous that they [Opposition parties] aren’t ashamed of what they have done [in the past]. Levelling baseless allegations and asking for resignations will dent the image of the State. The CM has promised a fair probe. We hope the truth comes out soon. The party stands firmly behind Mr. Desai,” Mr. Thackeray
Mr. Fadnavis’s decision to not accept Mr. Desai’s resignation expectedly didn’t go down well with the Opposition. Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council and NCP MLC Dhananjay Munde said by not accepting the resignation, Mr. Fadnavis has discreetly saved Mr. Mehta, who is also accused of corruption. The CM had earlier said mere denotification of land does not mean corruption.
“The Ministers accused of corruption have no moral right to keep occupying their chairs. Unless they are removed, a fair probe cannot happen. Even if the CM is backing them, we will continue our fight against the corrupt ministers and the government,” Mr. Munde said.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the CM has proved he is a ‘political opportunist’ and has no firm stand against corruption. “The CM had immediately accepted the resignation of then Minister Eknath Khadse [in 2016] but has refused to do so now. This shows he is an opportunist who will only do what suits his politics.”
Mr. Khadse, a BJP leader, had resigned last year after facing allegations of impropriety in a land deal in Pune.