Nashik's AAP candidate: Irrigation scam whistle-blower no match for NCP, MNS

Mumbai: The Aam Adami Party (AAP) has fielded Vijay Pandhare, former chief engineer in the water resources department and whistle-blower in the alleged multi-crore irrigation scam, from Nashik Lok Sabha constituency with the hope that this would emerge into one of the bigger personality-driven contests in Maharashtra.

Information revealed by Pandhare led to the emergence of the irrigation scam, one of the Nationalist Congress Party's biggest embarrassments. With the NCP fielding PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal, himself accused of malpractice in the running of an educational trust with a multi-crore empire, AAP hoped that this face-off would draw the party some eyeballs in Nashik, where its presence is otherwise limited.

 Nashiks AAP candidate: Irrigation scam whistle-blower no match for NCP, MNS

AAP candidate from Nashik Vijay Pandhare. Image courtesy CNN-IBN

But with Nashik's political landscape dominated by an anti-incumbency factor against the state government and against the MNS which rules the local municipality, the AAP candidate is expected to make some impact.

Pandhare, who joined the AAP in December 2013, is a known face across the state after he exposed the multi-crore irrigation scam. Still, most people in Nashik know little about Pandhare.

In 2012, Pandhare wrote letters to the Maharashtra chief minister and governor pointing out the irregularities and cost variation in irrigation projects. The furor led to the resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who held the irrigation portfolio between between 1999 and 2009.

"People are tired of traditional political parties due to corruption and they want change. I urge them to think about the irrigation scam, Telgi scam before pressing the button," Pandhare told Firstpost in his office on the first floor of a six storey building in Mahatma Nagar, Nashik. "The inquiry by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the alleged irrigation scam is a farce. If we come to power, we will refer the irrigation scam and Telgi scam to the Jan Lokpal for inquiry," he said.

Pandhare is contesting against Bhujbal, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine's Hemant Godse and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's Pradeep Pawar. The constituency has total a 15,93,605 registered voters and is dominated by the Maratha and Other Backward Classes.

Pandhare admitted that not many people have come forward to show support in Nashik, but said people are quietly preparing for change. "I hope they will vote for AAP," he said. He also said that support for AAP in Nashik has decreased after Arvind Kejriwal quit as Delhi chief minister.

Pandhare's campaigning includes road shows, rallies, door-to-door campaigning, handbill distribution and more. "We are focusing mostly on road shows due to a fund crunch. So, we are campaigning with limited resources which is why we are not able to reach out to all the voters," he said. AAP has asked many of its candidates to spend money on campaigning either from their own pockets or through donations they raise themselves.

Many people in Nashik say that though Pandhare is from Nashik, they don't know much about him and his agenda for the election. "We have seen him campaigning in selected areas only and not across the constituency. We got to know about Pandhare and his work through newspapers and television channels from 2012. If many people are not aware about his work and election agenda, how they are going to vote for him?" asked a resident of Mahatma Nagar.

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

Updated Date: Apr 20, 2014 15:45:30 IST