Wrote letter to speed up irrigation project: Gadkari to Cong

A letter written by BJP President Nitin Gadkari lobbying for contractors building a mega-dam project in Maharashtra has the Congress demanding his resignation.

Gadkari, however, defended himself over the allegations that he was lobbying for party MP Ajay Sancheti in the multi-crore irrigation scam, saying that he had written five letters to speed up the irrigation project for the farmers of Vidharbha.

“I wrote five letters to PK Bansal. In my letter I did not ask him to give the bill to contractor. Have I done anything wrong? If Congress says this is wrong I will do the same thing ten times," he told reporters in Mumbai.

Nitin Gadkari. AFP

Gadkari, who has also slapped a legal notice on RTI activist Anjali Damania for levelling allegation against him in connection with the irrigation scam, said, “There have been media reports saying I have business links with Sharad Pawar (NCP chief). "If anyone of you (in the media) is able to prove the charge, I will give my entire property to him,” the BJP chief said.

The BJP too has come out in Gadkari's defence. The party’s national spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said, “If the irrigation projects would be completed quickly, it will benefit Vidharba. This is the reason why all representatives write to Central Govt to complete the projects quickly.”

But Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, against whom Gadkari had issued a legal notice over allegations related to coal scam, was quick to latch on the issue and describe the BJP chief as “more of a businessman than a politician.”

“It is clear that he (Gadkari) was interested in contractors getting their money which they don’t deserve,” he alleged.

Singh tweeted, “To get something in BJP you should now become contractors and businessmen. This would keep on happening till Gadkari is the BJP President. My sympathies for the grass root workers of BJP and RSS!”

In the controversial letter, Gadkari wrote to Union Water Resources Minister P K Bansal on 30 July this year asking him to clear the dues of the contractors involved in the project though no names were mentioned.

“Due to non-payment of the dues, the contractors stop their works. This may delay the programme and would also result in time overrun and delays in creation of irrigation potential. Presently liability of Rs 400 crore is pending,” the letter said.

The Gosikhurd project is facing time and cost overrun with its cost reportedly going up from Rs 372 crore in 1982 to over Rs 7000 crore in 2008 and an estimated Rs 13,000 crore now.

Meanwhile, Arvind Kejriwal-led India Against Corruption alleged that Gadkari was more interested in helping companies involved in construction of dams rather than the farmers who were committing suicide in Vidharbha region.

With inputs from Agencies