In a setback for former NCP leader and former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, the Maharashtra government on Tuesday cancelled nearly 300 tenders of irrigation projects worth Rs 6,000 crore due to pending investigation by the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in the multi-crore irrigation scam.
It has been alleged that Ajit Pawar, who was Water Resources Minister between 1999 and 2009, had approved projects worth Rs 20,000 crore in 2009 by tweaking rules and without clearance of Governing Council of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
Reacting to this move by the Maharashtra government, NCP leader Nawab Malik questioned the timing of this move and told Times Now that the government was only interested in targeting Pawar. In response, Shiv Sena leader Manisha Kayande said, "We are concerned about the people of Maharashtra, not the people of NCP and Congress."
Malik also said that the allegations against Pawar were false. "Where is the outcome of the enquiry (against Ajit Pawar)?" he said.
The entire scam was brought to light back in 2012 when Vijay Pandhare, the then chief engineer in the water resources department, wrote letters to the Maharashtra chief minister and governor pointing out the irregularities and cost variation in irrigation projects.
Moreover, despite huge expenditure, it appeared that there was no significant rise in irrigated land in the state. The percentage of irrigation potential had increased by just 0.1 percent in past ten years, despite an expenditure of Rs 70,000 crores on such projects.
The furor had led to the resignation of Ajit Pawar.
Later on in 2012, the then Maharashtra government, led by Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan, had tabled a white paper on the issue in the Maharashtra Assembly, giving a clean chit to Pawar. After the clean chit, Pawar was brought back in the Maharashtra cabinet.
Both the NCP and Congress had to face a lot of flak for both the scam and the move to reinstate Pawar as Deputy CM.
After Devendra Fadnavis assumed power in Maharashtra in 2014, he had ordered ACB to conduct an enquiry into the alleged scam.
On 8 August this year, the ACB had filed a chargesheet against 10 people in connection with the Balganga irrigation scam, before a district court in Thane.
The ACB slapped various sections of IPC for cheating and fraud, besides the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 against the accused.
Even though the chargesheet had not named Pawar, it had sought further permission to investigate the deals which directly involved him.
With inputs from agencies