Ravindra Waikar ‘forced’ to give up office in MHADA headquarters to newly-appointed chief Uday Samant, allegedly skips visits; Samant now said to be eyeing Housing Minister’s office.
Space crunch has apparently hit the state’s biggest housing development agency, too. Senior Shiv Sena leader and Minister of State for Housing Ravindra Waikar has been edged out of his office at the MHADA headquarters by newly-appointed chairperson of the agency Uday Samant.
The office is the plushest in the Bandra head office.
Things have allegedly come to such a pass that a miffed Waikar, a senior Shiv Sena leader, has stopped even visiting the headquarters.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had appointed Ratnagiri Sena MLA Samant as MHADA chief last month—a post that didn’t have a full-time chairperson for 16 years. Since Waikar holds the housing department portfolio, he had a designated office on the fifth floor of the MHADA headquarters. Officials said he used to regularly convene meetings there.
Soon after Samant took charge, he was given a chamber which, according to sources, wasn’t big enough for him. He then asked the staff to relocate him to Waikar’s office. “We removed Waikar’s nameplate and Samant moved into Waikars office. A small chamber that was used for BDD chawl redevelopment work was also included in Samant’s office,” said a MHADA official.
To stake his claim over Waikar’s office, Samant apparently told officials that since he was the chief, he deserved “a good office”. He is also said to have reasoned that as Waikar was a minister and already had an office at Mantralaya, he didn’t need another chamber at MHADA.
MHADA officials said Samant is now eyeing the office of BJP leader and Housing Minister Prakash Mehta. Soon after taking charge, Samant had said that MHADA would never be able to achieve its target of constructing 15,229 affordable houses till 2020, taking a dig at the agency’s target of 15,000-plus houses to be delivered in Mumbai alone.
Officials said Samant hasn’t just crossed swords with party seniors— Waikar is much senior in the party hierarchy—but his term has also got off to a rough start. A senior official said Samant was invited for an Engineer’s Day event last month, but the function had to be called off after he expressed his displeasure over being invited just the day before. “He was not happy about being given a last minute invitation. This (the cancellation) sent a very bad message to all our engineers,” said the official.
Samant denied having “taken over” Waikar’s office. “I’m sitting in Waikarji’s office after taking his consent. There is no controversy. Waikarji is my colleague and minister of state for housing; he can come and sit in the office any time. In fact, I also sit in Housing Minister Prakash Mehta’s office often. There was no designated office for the chairperson and so, I had to sit in the minister’s office,” he told Mirror.
Waikar did not respond to calls and text messages.
Waikar is a loyal Sena man, a two-time MLA and former corporator, while Samant joined the party after quitting the NCP just before the 2014 assembly election.