Maharashtra irrigation scam: NCP leader Ajit Pawar gets to answer ACB questions sitting at home

In a decision that could spell relief for NCP leader and former Maharashtra Water Resources Minister Ajit Pawar, Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has dropped the plan to summon him in connection with the Maharashtra irrigation scam. The ACB has decided to allow Pawar to respond to questions regarding the scam in writing.

 Maharashtra irrigation scam: NCP leader Ajit Pawar gets to answer ACB questions sitting at home

NCP leader Ajit Pawar was allowed to not visit the ACB office. PTI

This 'relief' from the BJP government comes months after the BJP in March had backed the NCP in the no-confidence motion against Legislative Council Chairman Shivajirao Deshmukh, which had led to the chairman of the Legislative Council being voted out in a no-confidence motion for the first time in history of the Maharashtra legislature.

While a total of 45 members had voted in favour of the no-confidence motion when it was put to vote in the Council, 22 had voted against it. 27 members of the NCP had voted in support of the no-confidence motion brought in by the party. The motion had also been backed by 12 members of the BJP.

However, a senior IAS officer, speaking to The Times of India said there was nothing wrong with the decision.

"So far, he is not an accused; as such, we cannot compel him to remain present in the ACB office. If he does not respond to the questionnaire, we will assume he has no comments to offer and proceed as per procedure laid down under the ACB manual," the officer told The Times of India on Wednesday.

Pawar had earlier been summoned by the ACB in May. But he had avoided visiting the ACB office by saying that he was out of the state.

In December 2014, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had given the go-ahead to the ACB for the probe against Pawar and state NCP president Sunil Tatkare in connection with alleged corruption and irregularities in execution of various irrigation projects during their tenure as Water Resource Ministers.

The Chief Minister had also approved ACB's proposal to conduct an open inquiry into allegations of corruption and favouritism against former Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Chhagan Bhujbal in construction of Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi and two other government buildings in Mumbai built under Private Public Partnership.

The Maharashtra irrigation 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.

It was alleged that Ajit Pawar, who was Water Resources Minister between 1999 and 2009, had approved 38 projects worth Rs 20,000 crore in 2009 by tweaking rules and without clearance of Governing Council of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).

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 furore over the scam led to the resignation of Ajit Pawar.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Updated Date: Jun 04, 2015 11:01:16 IST