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Maharashtra Cabinet ‘outraged’ at Governor’s ‘interference in governance’




In an unprecedented development in the country’s political history, Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government on Tuesday expressed strong “displeasure” over what it termed attempts by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to “create two power centres” and “interfere in the state administration”.

The 79-year-old Governor’s actions “led to outrage” at the Cabinet meeting, presided over by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and ministers of all three allies – Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress – present.

Minority Affairs Minister and NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik informed media persons that the Cabinet has directed Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte to personally visit Raj Bhavan on Tuesday itself and convey the MVA government’s “intense sentiments” on the issue to the Governor’s aides.

Kunte been asked to meet Koshyari’s Secretaries and brief them on the rights and duties of the Governor as per the Constitution, he added.

The fast-paced political development came even as NCP President Sharad Pawar shared moments of bonhomie with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi.

“The Governor seems to have forgotten that he is no longer the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, but the Governor of Maharashtra,” Malik said without mincing words.

The provocation for the fresh war between the MVA government and the Raj Bhavan was the Governor’s plan for a 3-day visit to Nanded, Hingoli, and Parbhani districts later this week.

Among his engagements are inaugurating two hostels – one each for boys and girls – funded and constructed by the state government, which are completed, but not yet handed over to the local university.

“It is the prerogative of the state government to inaugurate it and hand over to the university. Hence, it was not appropriate on the part of the Governor to conduct the programme directly without asking the Minorities Department or the state administration. This is an infringement on the government’s rights as per the Constitution,” Malik said.

Besides, the Governor plans to hold review meetings at the Collectorates with the District Collectors of Nanded, and Hingoli on August 6 and Parbhani on August 7, which has irked the MVA government.

“We have no objections to any programmes of the Governor at the universities as planned since he is the Chancellor of all state varsities… But why the other meetings. Is the Governor trying to create ‘two power centres’ in state?” Malik asked.

The Minister pointed out that Koshyari frequently speaks of “how he climbed hills, did this or that” when he was the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand (2001-2002), but he must realise that he no longer holds the post, but is the Governor of Maharashtra.

He expressed the hope that after the Chief Secretary’s briefing, the Raj Bhavan will suitably modify the Governor’s programmes, especially those pertaining to the hostels’ inauguration and the series of review meetings with three District Collectors.

This is not the first time that the Governor has resorted to breaching the rights of the state government and had earlier started taking Covid-19 review meetings, which finally ended after the MVA government complained to the Centre, Malik added.

He said that the Governor has not taken a decision yet on the list of nominations of 12 MLCs from the Governor’s quota to the Legislative Council though the state cabinet has already cleared it in November 2020, as also the list of MPSC Members.

“We are very hopeful that the Governor will do the needful in these pending matters soon,” Malik said, optimistic of an end to the latest bout of friction.


Fadnavis arrives in Goa to meet MLAs, office bearers





 Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday arrived in Goa on his first visit to the coastal state after his appointment as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Goa in-charge for the 2022 assembly polls.

“This is his first visit after he was appointed as in-charge of Goa for polls. He will be in Goa for two days. He will be meeting with ministers, party workers, office bearers and drawing up a strategy for the elections,” Urban Development Minister Milind Naik told reporters after receiving Fadnavis at Goa’s Dabolim international airport.

Fadnavis is also expected to meet the core members of the state BJP executive committee during his two-day visit, while also meeting with the members of the BJP legislature party.

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BJP asks MVA to unravel mystery of ‘missing’ ex-Maharashtra and ex-CoP





The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra on Monday urged the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to come clean on the curious case of ‘missing’ former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and ex-Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh.

Leader of Opposition (Council) Pravin Darekar said that the home department must find out their whereabouts and inform the people where Deshmukh and Singh are currently located.

“The government should ascertain whether Deshmukh is in Mumbai, Nagpur, his constituency, or elsewhere, and also where Singh is currently. The latter (Singh) is still an officer working under the Home Department,” Darekar told mediapersons here.

His comments came amid reports that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has sought the help of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to trace Deshmukh, who is sought by both the central agencies for probe.

Similarly, Singh is on the radar of Maharashtra police and a probe commission investigating his March ‘letter-bomb’ wherein he had levelled certain allegations of corruption against Deshmukh, leading to the latter’s resignation as Home Minister on April 5.

Subsequently, Deshmukh has been raided by both the ED and the CBI in the past six months. He also moved various courts, but ignored at least 5 summons from the ED, contending that the matter is pending before the courts.

Likewise, Singh, 59, who had proceeded ‘on leave’ in early-May and was reportedly living in Chandigarh, has not responded to a Special Investigation Team (SIT) or to notices seeking his appearance before the retired Justice K. U. Chandiwal Commission set up by the Maharashtra government.

Last week, Chandiwal had issued a bailable warrant of Rs 50,000 against Singh and placed the matter for further hearing on September 22. Earlier, Singh was fined thrice which he paid up, even as he moved the courts challenging the setting up of the probe panel.

Among those ‘skipping’ calls to join the probe is former state Intelligence Department chief Rashmi Shukla, who bunked Mumbai Police’s two summons in April in connection with the investigation into the alleged illegal phone-tapping case of several prominent persons.

However, in May, Shukla, 56, agreed to record her statement with a police team which went from Mumbai to Hyderabad, where she is posted as the Additional DGP of CRPF, South Zone.

The cases involving Deshmukh and Singh are also linked to the probe into the planting of an SUV with 20 gelatin sticks and a threat note near Mukesh Ambani’s house ‘Antilia’ in south Mumbai, followed by the death of the vehicle’s owner, Mansukh Hiran.

The Mumbai Police filed a chargesheet in the case earlier this month, detailing the sequence of events. The police also invoked terror and murder charges against all the accused.

Officials attribute the apprehensions of possible detention or arrest by the concerned agencies as the primary reasons behind VIPs or prominent personalities not turning up physically for investigations.

Instead, they rely on their battery of legal advisors or move the courts at various levels to evade the probe summons, a luxury which the commoners can ill-afford, officials said.

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Maharashtra: For 2nd year, austere Ganeshotsav, sans crowds amid Covid fears





For the second consecutive year, millions of people in Mumbai, the coastal Konkan region and other parts of the state on Friday cheerfully welcomed Lord Ganesha amid stringent restrictions to ward off the lurking threats of the Covid-19 ‘third wave’.

The state’s biggest public festival’s lowkey celebrations were further hit by an abrupt change in the rules — banning all physical ‘darshan’ at the 2,400-odd public associations which have erected marquees (pandals) for devotees — disappointing the organisers.

“We were all geared to conduct the festival with full Covid-19 protocols but at the last-minute, the new rule with Sec. 144 has been clamped. This has come as a shock to all, but we shall strictly adhere to the government norms for public safety,” the BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshutsav Samanway Samiti (BSGSS) President Naresh Dahibhavkar told IANS.

The missing crowds could entail huge losses of over Rs
100-crore for the public associations which had hoped to collect devotees offerings in their coffers besides sponsors and advertisers, for carrying out various charitable services round-the-year, rued Dahibhavkar.

Undaunted, the ordinary folks lustily chanting ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’, started bringing the idols of their beloved lord since last night to their homes, housing societies, public or private complexes and associations, and virtually every household in villages, for the low-key but highly devotional celebrations over the next 10 days.

This morning, lakhs of families performed the ‘sthapna poojas’ followed by traditional ‘aartis’ to mark the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

On Saturday, a majority of the households would give the first send-off and perform the immersions of the Ganpati idols marking the one-and-half-day celebrations of the fest ending on September 19.

Considered the God of wisdom, the pot-bellied-elephant-headed Lord Ganesha brings in prosperity and good fortune and drives away obstacles (‘vigna’) and ill-luck.

This year also, the idol height is restricted to 4 feet for marquees and 2 feet for home worship — a significant drop from the pre-pandemic era when some of the majestic Lord Ganesha idols benignly stared down at devotees from 20-feet plus pinnacles.

Hoping to make the best of the austere celebrations, the BSGSS have decided to enhance their Covid-19 volunteer forces by at least 20 per cent to grapple the potential ‘third wave’, said Dahibhavkar.

“From tomorrow, we shall launch health campaigns, organise blood donations and other social activities in a planned manner to avoid crowds,” he added.

Celebrated across the country, the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik-Konkan quadrangle is the main epicentre of the festival with some of the biggest celebrations witnessed here annually.

Not willing to take any chances with the ‘third wave’ apparently round-the-corner, the government has permitted only ‘online’ darshans since even temples and other places of worship are shut as per the Centre’s directives.

“We have made all necessary arrangements for online darshans,” said actor Aadesh Bandekar, the Chairman of Shri SiddhiVinayak Mandir Trust, Mumbai, who is accorded the Minister of State (MoS) status.

The curbs notwithstanding, lakhs of idols of Lord Ganesha came to the homes of people, ranging from Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, ministers, Leaders of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar, NCP President Sharad Pawar, state Congress President Nana Patole, city unit chief Bhai Jagtap, leaders of various parties, lawmakers and activists.

Lord Ganesha is also visiting top industrialists, film stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Urmila Matondkar, Nana Patekar, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, the Kapoor clan, the Dutt family, and many more.

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