The appointment of BJP MLA Suresh Halvankar, who had been convicted in a power theft case, as chairman of a committee on reforms in the power loom and textiles sector has raised eyebrows.
The conviction and jail term have been stayed by the high court, but the move clouds people's perception of the BJP government which came to power on the promise of a "clean" administration, coming as it does close to a vote of confidence that many believe was not above dubious.
"Halvankar's appointment to the crucial committee reflects the state of affairs in the BJP government. In the Centre too, Narendra Modi has appointed tainted ministers. Under such circumstances, one cannot expect appointment of clean persons in the state," said Congress spokesperson Anant Gadgil.
The cooperation and textiles department led by senior BJP leader Chandrakant Patil on Friday issued an order appointing Halvankar, the Ichalkaranji MLA and a power loom factory owner, as chairman of the high-level committee.
Following a criminal case filed by the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company, the Kolhpaur sessions court had on May 14, 2014, convicted Halvankar and his brother Mahadev and sentenced them to undergo imprisonment for three years. The main charge against the Halvankar brothers was that they were directly involved in power theft, resulting in a loss of Rs 21 lakh to the company.
Halvankar challenged the conviction before the Bombay high court, which stayed the lower court order on July 21, 2014. According to a Supreme Court order, if a person is convicted in a criminal case, he is barred from contesting elections. So, the state legislature initiated proceedings to stop him from contesting polls, but the high court gave him relief relying on his contention that Mahadev was associated with the factory and he was not linked to its day-to-day affairs.
The BJP renominated him from Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur district for the assembly polls in October. Halvankar defeated his Congress rival and former minister Prakash Awade by a margin of over 15,000 votes.