Monday, June 9 1997

Joshi seeks Cabinet nod for probe

Prafulla Marpakwar

MUMBAI, June 8: Chief Minister Manohar Joshi's unilateral announcement to conduct a high-level probe into alleged politician-criminal nexus has sent shock waves not only among senior Congress leaders, but also among the top functionaries of the Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.

Joshi said ever since the state government came to power on March 14, 1994, the demand for a high-level inquiry into the alleged politician-criminal nexus was before him. ``I thought it should not be too late to conduct the inquiry to the logical end. Accordingly, on Saturday, I decided to order the probe,'' Joshi told The Indian Express.

When asked if the probe would be on the pattern of the much publicised inquiry conducted by former Union home secretary N N Vora, Joshi replied that it would be a simple probe conducted by a government official, preferably from either the police or the home department.

Joshi said it was owing to such a nexus that underworld elements were encouraged to conduct their illegal activities and thus, adversely effect the law and order situation.

``The modalities of the inquiry will be decided after the special Cabinet meeting at Ratnagiri on Tuesday. I will place the entire proposal before the Cabinet for approval,'' Joshi said.

The chief minister said his government has received several complaints against a section of politicians alleging their links with one or the other criminal. ``It was essential to probe these complaints by appropriate authorities,'' Joshi added.

However, top leaders of the Sena-BJP today expressed surprise and shock over Joshi's announcement. ``Joshi is a determined politician. If he decides to conduct the inquiry, then he will take it to the logical end like he did in case of controversial former Minister Shashikant Sutar, who resigned following indictment by the Puranik Committee,'' a senior minister said.However, most Sena and BJP ministers remarked that the announcement was made in hurry and without bringing the issue before the Cabinet.

`` From the seven-line statement, I think the decision was taken to oblige a section of Congress leaders, particularly arch rivals of Sharad Pawar to embarrass him on eve of the AICC presidential elections,'' a senior BJP Minister said.

Apparently, there was no immediate cause to make such an announcement, he added.

In this connection, the Minister recalled the statement of former chief minister Sudhakarrao Naik before the Sri Krishna Commission, probing into the 1992-93 communal riots in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid.Naik had deposed before the commission that former Congress legislators Pappu Kalani and Hitendra Thakur, alleged associates of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, may have been given elections tickets at the instance of senior party leader Sharad Pawar. Naik had also informed the commission that there was a definite underworld-politician nexus in the state.

Meanwhile, Sharad Pawar welcomed Joshi's decision. ``I have read the chief minister's statement and I welcome it,'' he said.

Asked about allegations by detractors about his links with criminal elements, Pawar said nobody had so far made any specific charge against him.

Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.





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