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With Ajit Pawar’s resignation, the first wicket is down in Maharashtra’s ruling coalition amidst allegations of a huge scam of Rs72,000 crore in the irrigation department. But what about other scandal-hit leaders like Patel, Bhujbal and Tatkare?
Following allegations of a Rs72,000 crore scam in irrigation project sanctions, Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister and nephew of Sharad Pawar, has resigned from the Maharashtra cabinet. According a PTI report, Ajit Pawar said that he has sent his resignation to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, but would continue to be leader of NCP in the legislature.
While the resignation of Ajit Pawar has come as a surprise, his party Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and its chief Sharad Pawar has so far kept mum over several allegations of fraud on senior party members. There are several allegations against NCP leaders like Praful Patel, Chhagan Bhujbal, Sunil Tatkare and Gulabrao Deokar. While the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Union Government and Air India for probing aircraft purchases during Patel’s tenure as civil aviation minister, the Maharashtra government has given its consent to probe allegations against Bhujbal.
Earlier, political circles were abuzz that in order to save their senior leader (Patel?) in the Centre, the NCP may ask Tatkare to resign amidst several allegations. But in the end it turned out to be Ajit Pawar who offered to resign. This may have been done to save Tatkare, often labelled as Ajit Pawar’s ‘chela’ or true follower.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiyya and Madhav Bhandari have even filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court for probing against Tatkare and various companies he allegedly set up through his family and friends.
Pawar, who held finance and energy portfolios in the Prithviraj Chavan government, said he would not accept any post till his name is ‘cleared’.
“People are jealous of the rise of NCP,” he said, in an apparent reference to ally Congress with which his party has had an uneasy relation for the last several years.
Pawar said he has recommended that the energy portfolio held by him be given to NCP minister Rajesh Tope and finance to Jayant Patil.
There have been reports in the media that Pawar, who was water resource minister for a decade between 1999 and 2009, had approved 38 projects worth Rs 20,000 crore in 2009 without clearance of Governing Council of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
According to reports, Pawar and the VIDC executive director approved the projects without placing it before the governing council comprising the state’s chief secretary and officials of the finance, planning agriculture and water resource departments for deliberation and clearance, as mandated under the rules.
It has also been alleged that tenders were approved at inflated rates, but Pawar has flatly refuted the charges.
When Congress-NCP combine came into power in 1999, Ajit Pawar was promoted to the rank of a cabinet minister. He became minister for the coveted Irrigation department during October 1999-December 2003 in the Vilasrao Deshmukh government.
When Congress-NCP combine returned to power in 2004 he retained the water resources ministry (name changed from irrigation department to water resources department) from November 2004 to October 2009 in Vilasrao Deshmukh government and later in Ashok Chavan’s government.
Several detractors point out that Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), the bastion of Ajit Pawar, is also known to host as many as 85,000 illegal buildings housing several hundred thousands of residents of the city. It is widely alleged that the constructions and contractors erecting them were all blessed by Pawar, in return of financial help for electoral campaigns of his party.