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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Maharashtra divided on Hazare charges

The Congress-NCP coalition government in Maharashtra is divided over initiating action against social activist Anna Hazare on charges of alleged misappropriation of funds and untimely filing of the accounts of his various trusts — upheld to some extent by inquiries in 2005 and resurrected now.

The Supreme Court had recently served notices to Hazare and the central and state governments on the alleged misuse of funds by his Hind Swaraj Trust. However, ministers and other heads of the ruling Democratic Front government would prefer to get Hazare’s okay or, at least, avoid his criticism. This may be because elections to the 195 municipalities, 10 municipal corporations and 27 zilla parishads in the state are due between December and March next year.

A Congress minister, who did not want to be identified, told Business Standard: “The Sawant Commission report (2005) and the task force headed by former chief secretary
D M Sukhthankar to prepare an action-taken report had not totally absolved Hazare and his trusts. Both had upheld the allegations in some cases. However, the government had kept both reports in cold storage. Sawant was categorical that the trusts had violated various provisions of the Bombay Public Trusts Act. The Sukhthankar panel had said the observations made by Sawant were sufficient to chasten a person like Hazare and induce him to learn a lesson for the future.”

An NCP minister said the Congress should take the lead in taking legal action against Hazare and the trusts. "Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was sent (to take charge, replacing the earlier incumbent) by the Congress high command for being clean and non- corrupt. The onus lies on him. The electoral prospects may not be affected if the Congress party feels that Chavan's image will work wonders. The state government should not waste further time but initiate action, especially when members of Team Anna are getting exposed on several issues."

The Opposition Shiv Sena has also been attacking Hazare and his team. Its publication, Saamna, has asked Hazare to satisfactorily answer the charges. Against this backdrop, a Congress minister said it was difficult to defend some ministers taking extra effort to reach out to Hazare by explaining their own strategies to curb corruption and bring in more transparency. “The government should not stop any dialogue process but it should not become defensive in initiating legal action, even when it is against Hazare,” he said.


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