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CM Devendra Fadnavis removes controversial MSRDC MD facing corruption charge

Bowing to pressure from the opposition Congress-NCP members, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday finally removed controversial IAS officer Radheshyam Mopalwar as the managing director of Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) till an inquiry on a corruption charge is completed against him.

The opposition raised uproar in the Assembly on Thursday demanding Mr Mopalwar’s suspension over a controversial audio clip. After Mr Mopalwar’s removal from his post however, the opposition said it would not allow the Assembly to function until housing minister Prakash Mehta, who is facing accusations of favouring a builder, also resigns.

In the alleged audio clip of Mr Mopalwar, two people are talking about a plot of land and one is convincing the other to pay a bribe in Mantralaya to get work done.

Mr Fadnavis said he has already announced a probe against Mopalwar. “The inquiry will be conducted in a month’s time,” the CM said.

Mr Fadnavis said that considering the sentiments of the opposition members about Mopalwar, he will be removed from the post. “However, one needs to recall that Mopalwar was always given good postings during the Congress-NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) regime. The allegations against him are (from) during the Congress-NCP period,” he added

Raising the issue in the House, NCP leader Ajit Pawar said some new information has come forth against Mr Mopalwar. “A new piece of information has been revealed now about Mopalwar. On January 9, 2017, the chief minister had given an order of inquiry to the crime branch in a matter that is related to Mopalwar. In fact, BJP MLA Anil Gote had only demanded the inquiry. Complaints have been registered five to six times against Mopalwar. Even the Prime Minister’s Office has asked about the Mopalwar issue. This is a very serious issue and the government should not protect the officer,” Mr Pawar said.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, alleged that the government is defending the officer by not taking any action against him. “Who is Mopalwar and why is the government trying to protect him? The government boasts about transparency but now it is exposed. Eknath Khadse had resigned before allegations against him were proved. The officer should also be suspended,” Mr Vikhe-Patil said.

Amid the uproar, the Assembly was adjourned five times and then for the entire day after Mr Fadnavis removed the controversial officer from the post.

Mr Fadnavis then attacked opposition leaders and said allegations being made against Mr Mopalwar with respect to some projects date back to when the Congress-NCP government was in power. There is no mention of the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway project that the IAS officer was overseeing as the MSRDC managing director, he said. The `46,000 crore Expressway, also called Samruddhi Mahamarg (prosperity corridor), is being implemented by the MSRDC and considered a pet project of Mr Fadnavis.

However, the opposition was not satisfied with action taken only against Mr Mopalwar. NCP leader Jayant Patil said, “We are not satisfied with the state government because there is no announcement about Mehta. The minister has also made some mistakes and he should be punished as well.”

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