Days before the term of Maharashtra’s BJP-Shiv Sena government ended in 1999, trusts controlled by then chief minister Narayan Rane's family and deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde were allotted government plots in Mumbai at highly concessional rates.
Rane was in the Shiv Sena then and joined the Congress in 2005. He is now industries minister in the Prithviraj Chavan government.
Documents accessed by The Indian Express show that a 1,500 sq m plot in the prime Four Bungalows area in suburban Andheri, initially meant to be auctioned for a shopping complex, was leased for 30 years to Sindhudurg Shikshan Prasarak Mandal (SSPM) controlled by Rane’s wife Neelam Rane for a community centre at a paltry Rs 9,852 per year.
While Neelam is SSPM’s president, son Nilesh, who is also a Member of Parliament, oversees its affairs as its vice president.
The allotment order was issued on September 22, 1999, when the model code of conduct for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections was in place.
The same day, the Rane government issued orders for leasing another 1,720 sq m plot situated in the neighbourhood to Smita Thackeray’s Mukti Foundation for a cultural centre on similar terms and conditions at Rs 11,296 a year for 30 years.
Documents show that SSPM first applied for the allotment on June 6, 1998, when Rane was the minister in charge of the revenue department. Smita Thackeray also applied for the allotment that year.
In 2007, when Rane was revenue minister in the Congress-NCP government, the state government allowed SSPM and Mukti Foundation to commercially exploit up to 15 per cent of their plots despite charging concessional rents.
On September 27, 1999, another order was issued giving land on Marve Road in suburban Malad to Munde’s Atharva Education Trust at concessional rates to set up an engineering college. An adjoining plot was simultaneously leased out to the trust for a playground.
Rane stepped down as chief minister on October 17, 1999, after the BJP-Sena alliance was defeated in the Assembly polls held in September. His successor, Vilasrao Deshmukh, stayed these allotments on October 18.
Documents show Rane as opposition leader objected to the stay. While the stay on the SSPM plot allotment was lifted in December 2000, stay orders on the allotments to Atharva and Mukti Foundation were lifted in 2001 and