New Delhi: The Maharashtra government earlier this week announced the setting up of an special investigation team (SIT) to investigate the alleged suicide of Dadra and Nagar Haveli MP Mohan Delkar, who named its administrator Praful Khoda Patel, among others, in his 15-page purported suicide note.
This came after the seven-term MP’s son, Abhinav Delkar, met Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray Tuesday.
The Mumbai Police Tuesday registered an FIR against Patel, the former Gujarat home minister and the administrator of both the union territories of Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu.
The body of Delkar, an independent MP, was found hanging in a room at a hotel on Marine Drive in Mumbai on 22 February. In his purported suicide note found from the hotel room, he had named Patel and several officials of the UT administration.
Abhinav, in his complaint to the police, alleged that his father was being “harassed” by Patel to cough up Rs 25 crore or face a false case under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act.
Who is Praful Patel?
Patel is a former BJP leader who served as the home minister of Gujarat under Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister. He was appointed the administrator of both the UTs in 2016 by the NDA government, in a departure from the earlier practice of appointing only IAS officers to the post.
He had won the 2007 Gujarat assembly election for the first time from Himmat Nagar constituency in north Gujarat. In 2010, he was appointed the home minister and continued in the position until 2012. He lost the assembly election from Himmat Nagar in 2012.
Patel’s father was an RSS leader and Modi often visited him.
Patel’s ties with Modi helped him get appointed as the state home minister to fill in Amit Shah’s position who was jailed at the time in connection with the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.
“In that cabinet expansion (in 2010), when Amit bhai was arrested, Narendra bhai inducted four ministers in cabinet reshuffle, but the high-profile home ministry portfolio was given to Praful Khoda Patel. Saheb (Modi) was very inspired by his decision-making, and meticulous and tough politician image. So, he chose Patel, and not a senior leader, to succeed Amit Shah,” a BJP MLA from Gujarat, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint.
Patel was given eight of the 10 portfolios Amit Shah was handling before his arrest.
A road contractor before entering politics
Patel, a diploma holder in civil engineering, was a road contractor before he forayed into politics. His partnership firm, Sabar Construction, has done many projects with the Gujarat government.
A second BJP MLA from Gujarat, who is known to be close to Patel, told ThePrint: “He was a rich Patel from north Gujarat. When he entered politics, his priority was clear. His tough stand and bold decision-making caused his defeat in the next assembly election (in 2012) because he is like an administrator, not a politician, but he came to Narendra bhai’s notice.”
After losing the assembly election in 2012, Patel was not very active in the BJP.
His tiff with IAS officer
Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission of India directed Patel to withdraw a notice he had issued to then Dadra & Nagar Haveli collector Kannan Gopinathan for “not complying” with his instructions on various “official works”.
Gopinathan was also the returning officer for Dadra & Nagar Haveli in the general elections.
Patel’s notice said Gopinathan’s behaviour was “unbecoming of an officer”, and sought an explanation on why his conduct should not be reflected in his annual performance report.
But Gopinathan complained to the chief electoral officer (CEO) of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, indicating pressure from Patel. The CEO, in turn, referred it to the EC, which asked Patel to withdraw his show cause notice.
Sources close to Gopinathan told ThePrint he was under extreme pressure and it after his confrontation with Patel that he was disillusioned with his service and work.
Gopinathan, who had been serving as the secretary of the power, urban development and town and country planning departments of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, resigned in August 2019.
An MP close to Patel told ThePrint, “The union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli is situated between Gujarat and Maharashtra, and land prices are very high in Silvassa (town in Dadra and Nagar Haveli) due to its geography.”
“Delkar was a seasoned politician — winning consecutively from Congress to BJP and even without any party symbol. In 2019, he won without any symbol. He had acquired wealth through shady deals and the new administrator was sent to investigate and clear the mess in the union territory. This was the main cause of conflict between the two. He (Patel) instructed officials to investigate his (Delkar’s) wrongdoing,” the MP said.
“But it can be ascertained only after investigation that what was his trigger point of suicide. But it is sure that Patel worked following the rule book,” he added.
(Edited by Debalina Dey)