Ananthkumar Hegde. Image Courtesy : The Indian Express
Bengaluru/Mumbai: Days after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Maharashtra collapsed, controversial former Union minister Ananthkumar Hegde has made a startling claim that Devendra Fadnavis was made Chief Minister despite lacking majority only to 'protect' Rs 40,000 crore central funds. Later, Fadnavis denied any such move.
Latching on to the statement by Hegde, the BJP MP from Karnataka, former ally of Shiv Sena, which is now in the ruling saddle as part of its alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party and Congress, described Fadnavis' purported act of returning the funds to the Centre as 'treachery'.
Days after Fadnavis resigned barely 80 hours after taking oath for the second time as CM, Hegde sought to give a new twist to the episode describing the government formation by the BJP as a 'drama' played out to ensure that the funds meant for development works were not misused.
"You all know that recently in Maharashtra for just 80 hours our person was Chief Minister, but soon Fadnavis resigned. Why did we have to do this drama? Didn't we know -- despite knowing we don't have majority, why did he become CM? This is the question commonly everyone asks," Hegde said.
Addressing a gathering, reportedly during a bypoll campaign in Yellapur in Uttara Kannada district on Saturday, Hegde said: "More than about Rs 40,000 crore was under CM's control. If NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena came to power, certainly that Rs 40,000 crore would not have gone for development work and would have gone for different things (misused).”
He went on to say that "It was entirely planned earlier itself. Once we got to know (about three parties forming government), it was decided that a drama has to be played out. So, adjustments were made and oath was taken (by Fadnavis as CM), after oath, within 15 hours Fadnavis systematically ensured that it (money) reaches where it had to and protected it," the BJP leader said, speaking in Kannada.
The entire amount was given back to Central government, or else certainly the "next Chief Minister would have...you know what would have happened...," he added.
However, Fadnavis shot down Hegde's claims that he was sworn in to the top post in a hush-hush ceremony in November despite lacking majority only to 'protect' Rs 40,000 crore central funds under the CM's control from being misused.
"It is absolutely wrong and I refute it completely. A company of the central government is implementing the bullet train project, where the Maharashtra government's role is restricted to land acquisition only. Neither the Centre asked for any funds nor the Maharashtra government sent it back," he told reporters in Nagpur.
"No such major policy decision has been taken by me as CM. All such allegations are false," he added.
Calling the purported act of Fadnavis as treachery, Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the former CM and the BJP were 'criminals'.
The state Chief Secretary and chief minister Uddhav Thackeray will clarify on the issue, he added.
Fadnavis was sworn in by Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on November 23 for a second term after stunning midnight developments where NCP's Ajit Pawar had revolted against his party and propped up the government with BJP.
However, three days later, Fadnavis resigned ahead of the floor test, admitting he does not have the numbers shortly after his deputy Ajit Pawar quit the government.
Subsequently, on November 28, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray took oath as the new Chief Minister, heading an unlikely alliance of the Sena, the NCP and the Congress.
The Shiv Sena broke up its three-decade alliance with the BJP over sharing of the chief minister's post after contesting the assembly elections together and the combine winning a comfortable majority.