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Paid news case: Ashok Chavan has reasons to worry

By Pravin

Former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan
Few months ahead of State Assembly election, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan caught in a fresh trouble after the Election Commission on Sunday held him guilty of fudging his poll expenses during State elections in 2009.

The major blow came at a time when Congress is reeling under leadership crisis in the State. Acting on Supreme Court's order, the apex poll body even slapped a show cause notice on him for failing to lodge his election expenses as per law in a paid news case and asked him to file a reply within 20 days on why he should not be disqualifed.

The development could cost former Maharashtra Chief Minister dearly who was slowly emerging out of dark shadow of Adarsh taint and has a major role to play in ensuing Assembly election.

The case so far...

The case pertains to the paid news complaint filed by former Minister and Independent candidate Dr Madhavrao Kinhalkar and others against Chavan in the 2009 Maharashtra Assembly election, when he was the incumbent Chief Minister. In his complaint Kinhalkar alleged use of paid news reports by Chavan in Bhokar Assembly seat in Nanded.

The complainants alleged that a number of news items, marked as "advertisement" and "advertorial", appeared in different newspapers, pamphlets and magazines praising Chavan. The complaint also said, "paid news published for consideration in kind or cash for promoting or procuring the election of the respondent (Chavan)".

The complainant said that Chavan even failed to submit the expenditure incurred on the publication of such news items in the account of his poll expenses. Following the allegations, Chavan moved the Bombay High Court and then the Supreme Court against the complaintants.

Chavan, controversy's favourite child:

Ashok Chavan (55), charge-sheeted in the Adarsh Housing scam, had to step down as Chief Minister after the scam surfaced. He is accused of approving additional floor space index for Adarsh in return for two flats for his relatives. He was also charged with illegally approving, as the Revenue Minister, allotment of 40 per cent of the flats to civilians when the society was allegedly meant only for Kargil war widows and defence personnel.

The State appointed two-member judicial commission said in its report that four former Chief Ministers Ashok Chavan, late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kimar Shinde and Shivajirao Nilangekar and two NCP leaders, Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope misused their powers to get flats in the society.

The Rise and fall of Maratha leader:

Ashok Chavan is one of the most influential leaders of the Maratha community in State. In Nanded constituency, all six Assembly seats are held by Congress which is controlled by Ashok Chavan.

In 2009, Congress fought General election and State Assembly election under his leadership and performed a good show. The party won 17 seats in the Lok Sabha poll while its tally increased from 69 to 82 in Assembly poll. But, in 2010, Chavan had to step down as CM in the wake of Adarsh housing scam.

If proved guilty, Chavan could loose his MP seat:

Though the case is related to the Bhokar Assembly seat from which Chavan had resigned after being elected MP from Nanded in May this year, but the disqualification will also apply to Lok Sabha as well.

The EC order said a candidate who is declared disqualified by the Commission under Section 10 of the RP Act "incurs disqualification for contesting further elections to any House of Parliament or State Legislature for a period of three years, "and also for continuing as member of any such House if he is already a sitting member from the date of the order of the Election Commission and not from the date on which he contested the election or was elected at such election."

"Therefore, the resignation of the respondent from the membership of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on 22nd May, 2014, has no effect or impact on the continuance of the present proceedings before the Commission and the proceedings shall continue unabated until logical conclusion thereof," Paragraph 70 of the EC order said.

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