Maharashtra housing minister Prakash Mehta, under attack over allegations of graft in redevelopment projects,, was on Monday hit by another accusation of owning assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.
Mehta’s election affidavits show a 1,500% increase in his wealth in 10 years (2004 to 2014) from Rs 2.01 crore to Rs32.01 crore.
In addition, the housing minister, in his 2009 affidavit, did not mention his son Harsh’s flat in Laxmi Bhawan, being revamped by Sai Nidhi Realtors Private Limited, in which he was the director until 2014. This redevelopment project is currently at the centre of a controversy, with the Opposition alleging Mehta had given flats under the project to his son and other kin at the cost of original tenants.
Mehta was unavailable for comment because his phone was switched off.
Social activist Ankit Shah, who pointed to the discrepancies and sudden increase in Mehta’s income in his election affidavits, plans to file a complaint of disproportionate assets with the anti-corruption bureau (ACB).
“There is no explanation of this exponential rise in income. There is a lot of mismatch between the assets declared and the income generated. This is a clear cut case of disproportional assets,” said Shah.
Shah also accused Mehta of concealing information because he did not declare in his 2009 election affidavit that his son Harsh had purchased a house in 2006 in Laxmi Bhavan.
Shah also plans to write to the Election Commission (EC) demanding Mehta’s disqualification for concealing the information.
So far, Mehta had defended his stance in the Laxmi Bhavan redevelopment by pointing out his son and kin were genuine beneficiaries in the project. But Shah says this begs the question why the asset was not declared in Mehta’s affidavit.
The latest allegation will further weaken Mehta’s position as the monsoon session of state legislature resumes on Tuesday after a three-day break.
Sources in the Opposition said they will continue the attack on the housing minister with this latest accusation. Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan (Congress) on Monday indicated hardening of stance by holding a press conference in Delhi calling for Mehta’s resignation and a judicial inquiry against him.
The Opposition had stalled legislature proceedings last week saying unless Mehta resigned, they would not resume work. The state housing minister’s fate could well be decided in the next four days before the end of the monsoon session.
Troubles for Mehta began with allegations of violating norms in a slum redevelopment scheme in Tardeo to benefit a developer of around Rs 800-Rs1,000 crore. In this case, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had been dragged into the controversy with Mehta claiming initially that the decision was cleared by him.
This was followed by corruption allegations in a transit camp-turned slum redevelopment project at Ghatkopar, again allegedly to benefit a developer. In this case, too, the opinion and negative remarks of the department had been ignored by the minister.
The third allegation was about Mehta’s son and kin benefitting for a redevelopment project at the cost of original tenants.