New Delhi, Oct. 30 (ANI): In the wake of the national media exposure given to the Adarsh Society scam, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is almost certainly counting his last days in office, and according to sources in the Congress party, he will be given a face-saving and honourable exit.
Sources said that Congress president Sonia Gandhi did not immediately meet Chavan on his arrival in New Delhi. She first had meetings with her political secretary Ahmed Patel, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State for Science Technology Prithviraj Chavan at her 10, Janpath residence.
Thereafter, Patel is said to have had a meeting with Ashok Chavan at his residence, where he was told what had transpired in the early morning meeting with Gandhi. Patel is said to have told Chavan that it would be prudent for him to offer his resignation to the Congress president, as all avenues to save him from the sack were closed.
Party sources also said that the two-member committee appointed to probe the scam has been formed with the objective of containing the political damage that has arisen.
The Congress, according to sources, is reluctant to face a major political crisis in the run-up to next month's visit to India by U.S. President Barack Obama.
Sources said that they would like the visit to go off without a hitch. It was also revealed that the Congress leadership is wary and cautious about provoking a political and leadership crisis in Maharashtra.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A.K. Antony have been asked to investigate the scam surrounding the Adarsh Society in Colaba, Mumbai, and to submit a report to Gandhi at the earliest. Any decision regarding Ashok Chavan's political future is likely to be taken after the return of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from a three-nation foreign trip.
Congress sources said Chavan would continue in office till the report is submitted and the action taken thereof.
The decision to form a two-member probe committee was taken after Chavan met Sonia Gandhi. Gandhi is reported to have had consultations with both Mukherjee and Antony, giving them their brief on the matter.
Chavan has offered to resign in connection with his government's alleged role in the Adarsh Society housing scam.
Placing the onus of Gandhi to take a final decision on the issue, Chavan told media persons here this afternoon that he had presented all the facts connected to the project to the Congress president after she asked him to give a full explanation.
Chavan also said that he would welcome a probe by the Union Defence Ministry.
Rumor mills are reportedly agog with speculation that a decision could be taken by the Congress leadership within the next ten days. Speculation is rife, though unconfirmed, that Minister of State for Science and Technology and the Prime Minister's Office, Prithviraj Chavan, is one of the frontrunners for replacing Ashok Chavan at Mantralaya. The other person in the running is Mukul Wasnik.
Earlier, Ashok Chavan was summoned to meet Gandhi in connection with the controversial Adarsh Housing Society project.
Sources said the Congress leadership is upset with Chavan, whose mother-in-law and two other relatives are among 103 members of the housing society project in Mumbai.
It has been reported that Chavan was involved in clearing papers for the upscale high-rise Adarsh building project in his previous capacity as Revenue Minister.
On Friday, Chavan said he did not abuse his position to help his relatives get flats in the society, and added that he welcomed any sort of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the scam.
"I was not the Chief Minister of Maharashtra when the request for the land came up. I have no role in the allotment. I have not abused my position. These are politically motivated allegations," said Chavan.
Chavan further said the land belongs to the state government and was not reserved for Kargil widows or war heroes.
"The land belongs to the state government, based on the Collector's records. Revenue department land granted to the society as per GR of 9.7.1999. This land falls outside the defence boundary. It was not reserved for war veterans or Kargil heroes," said Chavan.
The 31-storey high-rise in Colaba has become a catchment area for a massive political controversy.
Former army chiefs, politicians and bureaucrats have all been allotted flats here for a fraction of the market rate. As of now, some of these members have decided to return their allotments By Sitesh Dwivedi (ANI)