Mumbai, August 30: The Maharashtra government on Tuesday cancelled at least 94 tenders of irrigation projects with a total worth of Rs. 6,000 crores, citing pending investigation by the Anti-Corruption Bureau against them. The move is being seen as a major setback to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former Deputy CM of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar, who during his tenure as the state Water Resources Minister between 1999 and 2009, approved various projects with a total worth of Rs. 20,000 crores. It has been alleged that Pawar tweaked the rules and guidelines, in order to get the clearances for the projects from the Governing Council of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
There have been political reactions to this move, with NCP claiming the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis only wanted to go after Pawar. Speaking to Times Now, NCP leader Nawab Malik questioned the timing of the state government’s decision. “Where is the outcome of the inquiry (against Ajit Pawar)?”, he asked. Shiv Sena leader Manisha Kayande responded to allegations of political targeting by the NCP, saying that the Shiv Sena-BJP government is only concerned about the people of Maharashtra and not about the people of NCP and Congress. ALSO READ: NCP in big soup: Chhagan Bhujbal in custody, Ajit Pawar, Sunil Tatkare already under scanner
Pawar had been implicated in the Irrigation Scam, back in 2012, when Vijay Pandhare, the then chief engineer in the water resources department, wrote letters to the then Maharshtra CM- Congress’s Prithviraj Chavan- and governor, pointing out financial irregularities in irrigation projects which had been cleared. It had been noted that no significant improvement had been made in the percentage of irrigated land in the state, despite huge amounts of money being allocated for the same. The percentage of irrigation potential was only seen to be increase by 0.1 per cent in over 10 years, while over Rs. 70,000 crores had been spent. The revelations had lead to a furor following whcih Ajit Pawar resigned as the Water Resources Minister.
However, late in 2012, the Maharashtra Assembly tabled a white paper on the issue, giving a clean chit to Ajit Pawar, following which he was brought back to the Cabinet. However, both the Congress and the NCP faced good amount of flak, for the scam and their move to reinstate Pawar, despite the allegations against him. After Devendra Fadnavis became CM in 2014, he ordered a fresh inquiry into the scam, instructing the ACB to look into the allegations of financial irregularities.