Mumbai: Maharashtra Minister of State for Transport and senior NCP leader Gulabrao Deokar was on Monday arrested for alleged involvement in a 1997 housing scam related to construction of 11,000 low-cost houses in Jalgaon, north Maharashtra.
Deokar, who was a member of Jalgaon Municipal Council between 1995 and 2000, was summoned to the Zilla Peth police station at Jalgaon and arrested, police sources said.
Additional SP Ishu Sindhu, who is probing the Rs 46-crore scam, had earlier summoned 46 former corporators including Deokar. However, only 25 turned up on Saturday and were arrested.
As Deokar did not turn up, a fresh notice was served and he was asked to present himself before police today.
Of the 25 former corporators arrested on Saturday, 15 were granted bail, while the rest were remanded in police custody. So far, 38 persons including former housing minister and Shiv Sena MLA Sureshdada Jain have been arrested in this case.
Construction tender was floated by the Jalgaon Municipal Council in 1997 for the housing scheme. It promised to provide nine plots for the project. It was found later that the tender conditions were altered to ensure that Khandesh Builders, a front company of Jain, secured the contract. Of the promised nine plots, five did not belong to the Jalgaon council and the remaining four were reserved for school, public garden or hospitals.
The project never took off, but massive funds were allegedly given to Khandesh Builders and later it was found that a sizable proportion of it was funnelled into the accounts of companies controlled by Jain.
After getting specific complaints, the then chief executive officer of Jalgaon Municipal Council lodged a first information report on February 3, 2006. However, with the leading politicians of the area allegedly involved in the case, the probe made no progress.
The probe gathered momentum after Sindhu took charge last year. Besides securing crucial documents from the Housing and Urban Development Corporation and the Urban Development Department, Sindhu recorded the statements of all the accused in the case.
Meanwhile, opposition BJP demanded that Deokar be removed from the ministry.
"Deokar should be sacked at once by the Governor, as there is a possibility that he may influence the investigation," state BJP chief Sudhir Mungantiwar said.
Talking to a news agency, Mungantiwar said it was the case of "better late than never" and congratulated the police officers who arrested Deokar.
Meanwhile, a local court in Jalgaon has granted bail to minister Gulabrao Deokar, sources said.
Advocate Aniket Nikam, son of noted public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, pleaded on his behalf.