India
BJP ‘evidence’ on irrigation scam
  • The Statesman
  • 22 Oct 2013
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Party submits 14,000-page document to S.I.T
statesman news service
Mumbai, 21 October
Saying it is determined to expose a politician-contractor nexus in the alleged Rs 70,000-crore irrigation and water resources department scandal in Maharashtra, the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party today submitted a voluminous 14,000-page “evidence” to the special investigation team, or SIT, set up by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to determine what has gone wrong with the government irrigation policy, and recommend measures to get rid of those flaws.
BJP state president Devendra Phadnavis and the opposition leader in state council, Mr Vinod Tawade, marched to the SIT office in Aurangabad today to hand over the “clinching evidence” against two Nationalist Congress Party ministers, Mr Ajit Pawar, the deputy CM, and Mr Sunil Tatkare, the water resources minister, to SIT head Madhav Chitale, an acknowledged expert in water conservation and irrigation projects.
Mr Chitale had earlier rejected the BJP’s request for an audience, saying that the terms of reference of the SIT do not permit examining “documents” related to corruption charges that the opposition party was keen on submitting.
Even though the BJP has been consistently targeting Mr Ajit Pawar and Mr Tatkare inside and outside the state legislature with serious irregularities in the planning, execution and implementation of irrigation projects in the state ~ particularly those undertaken by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Board ~ the SIT is of a view that its ambit does not cover going into graft allegations and name politicians and contractors who creamed off massive funds under the pretext of delays and cost escalation.
The BJP took up the matter with the state governor Mr K Satyanarayanan and threatened to move the judiciary seeking appropriate direction to the SIT to take its contention on record. The SIT, apparently succumbing to political pressure, asked the BJP leaders to present their argument in writing on Monday. Although Mr Phadnavis and Mr Tawade claimed the SIT has agreed to examine the “evidence” against NCP ministers, the panel's chief, Mr Chitale, once again clarified to the BJP leaders that the panel would carry forward its task within the “terms  of reference” laid down by the Congress-NCP government.
The alleged irregularities amounting to Rs 70,000 crore in the state irrigation and water resources department over past 13 years were first brought under the media’s glare by a chief engineer, Mr Vijay Pandhare, last year before he decided to quit the department. The sensational allegation had forced Mr Ajit Pawar to quit the government. But after 72 days in exile, he returned to the cabinet as deputy CM. The CM, Mr Chavan, who once appeared determined to expose several ministers belonging to the NCP, was forced to tone down his criticism under the political compulsions of running a coalition government.

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