Lokayukta report on mining scandal drives wedge in Goa BJP


Even as Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has played down the Goa Lokayukta’s indictment of former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar and senior bureaucrats in a mining lease renewal scandal, the anti-corruption ombudsman’s order appears to have driven a wedge in the state BJP unit.

Parsekar, speaking to reporters, has now claimed that it was pressure from legislators of Goa’s mining belt like Sawant and Power Minister Nilesh Cabral, that in 2015 he was forced to carry out the renewals of dozens of mining leases — in a bid to resume mining — into which the Lokayukta has now recommended a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

“But the then MLAs, who were most affected were Pramod Sawant, Nilesh Cabral, who are in government now. Pramod is now CM and Cabral is cabinet minister… In what circumstances the government had done the renewal, why was the renewal done, what kind of pressure was there on us from these elected representatives, they are witness to it,” Parsekar said on Thursday.

Parsekar said that he had “neither accepted nor expected a single rupee” from signing the files which led to the renewal of leases.

Sawant and Cabral are elected from the Sanquelim and Curchorem legislative assembly constituencies respectively, which are hubs of mining activity and have been severely hit by successive mining bans and the stoppage in mining activity.

In 2015, when the 88 mining leases, which according to the Lokayukta were “illegally” renewed, both Sawant and Cabral were junior ruling MLAs, while Parsekar lost the subsequent 2017 state assembly elections.

“It is up to him (Sawant) to implement the Lokayukta order. I find it strange that despite taking a cabinet approval, why have I been singled out?” said Parsekar, who continues to be a part of the Goa BJP’s core committee.

In his order on January 21, Goa Lokayukta P.K. Mishra indicted Parsekar, who was Chief Minister from 2014-17, and two bureaucrats namely former Mines Secretary P.K. Sain and Mines and Geology Director Prasanna Acharya for illegal renewing of most of the 88 mining leases in haste, after nearly a dozen mining leases were similarly renewed under the previous administration led by Parrikar.

With Parsekar now pointing the finger at Sawant, as well as Cabral as being allegedly responsible for pressurizing him to renew the mining leases, the Congress now insists that Sawant has lost the authority to decide on the recommendations of the damning Lokayukta report.

“The moment Parsekar says, he was under pressure from Sawant (then an MLA) and others, CM Pramod Sawant has lost the authority to decide what is to be done with the recommendations of the Lokayukta report,” state Congress president Girish Chodankar said.

He also said that the Congress would file a formal complaint with the CBI to probe the mining renewals.

While speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Sawant had downplayed the contents of the Lokayukta report, saying he had not read it yet. “It has just reached my office. I have not read it yet. I will take the Advocate General’s opinion on it,” Sawant said, underlining that the ombudsman’s report was only recommendatory.

Panaji, Jan 23 (IANS)


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