Maharashtra: Multiple irrigation scam cases officially closed two days after Ajit Pawar joins hands with BJP; "not linked to Ajit", says official
The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) issued a notification on Monday informing about the closure of around 3000 cases pertaining to the Vidarbha irrigation scam.
Several files of inquiry into the Maharashtra irrigation scam case were shut today. Early reports mentioned that that even the cases against the current deputy CM Ajit Pawar were closed, but the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has clarified saying that none of the closed cases were connected to Ajit Pawar.
The irrigation scam — one of the biggest scams in the State — was unearthed after the Economic Survey observed that the irrigation potential of the State had increased by only 0.1 per cent even though ₹70,000 crore had been spent on various projects over a decade. Contracts for the projects were allegedly given to select people, in violation of rules.
Ajit Pawar headed the Water Resource Ministry for years between 1999 and 2014 and was also a deputy CM in the Congress-NCP government during the period.
The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) issued a notification on Monday informing about the closure of multiple cases pertaining to the 2013 irrigation scam earlier in the day. But Maharashtra Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) DG, Parambir Singh was quoted by ANI as saying, "we are investigating around 3000 tenders in irrigation related complaints. These are routine inquiries which are closed and all ongoing investigations are continuing as they were earlier", leading to speculation that the cases closed are not related to Ajit Pawar
Super exclusive breaking . Anti corruption bureau gives the clean chit to @AjitPawarSpeaks who was alleged involved in the Rs 70,000 Cr irrigation scam. The clean chit is given to today. This investigation file has been closed down today. #MahaPoliticalTwist #MaharashtraCrisis pic.twitter.com/LW5rDlwqIr— KattaNews (@katta_news) November 25, 2019
Last year, the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) had said that as the minister of Water Resource Department (WRD), scams like the multi-crore Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation scam came under the responsibility of Ajit Pawar.
Coincidentally, it was Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who had given the go-ahead for a state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) inquiry into Ajit Pawar and other top NCP leaders, soon after he came to power in 2014.
The opposition lashed out at this dropping of charges against Ajit Pawar, with Congress & Shiv Sena swiftly condemning this on Twitter.
Closing down ‘Corruption Cases’ is now being used as a bargaining tool to carry on an illegitimate BJP-Ajit Pawar Govt in Maharashtra.— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) November 25, 2019
This is a blot on democracy.
‘Contract Killing’ of democracy is now synonymous with ‘Contract Killing’ of honesty & accountability.
वाह वाह सत्ता का खेल,— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) November 25, 2019
अब पता चल क्यूँ हुआ ये मेल
जाँच हुई फेल
ना लेनी पड़ेगी कोई बेल
Cases closed, corruption charges dropped, shamelessness to be in power exposed #MahaDeceit pic.twitter.com/dBELS9qgAA
Before this news broke out, several political commentators had speculated whether Ajit Pawar joining hands with BJP in sort of a 'mindnight coup' had anything to do with the corruption charges against him.
BJP does it again?
The ruling BJP has often been accused of only protecting their own leaders who are charged with corruption. Some had even said that only by joining or supporting BJP, opposition leaders can purge of the corruption charges against them. This fits into a larger accusation against BJP of using institutions like ED, CBI and CBDT to carry out political with-hunt.
In Maharashtra itself, there is the example of Narayan Rane, the former Cheif Minister accused of money laundering and land scams. Since he joined BJP just ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls in 2018, there have been no raids at this properties or any breakthrough in the investigation against him, either by ED or CBI.
There are several other such examples like the Reddy brothers of Bellary, Mukul Roy of Bengal and Himanta Biswa Sarma of Assam.
'All's fair in love, war and politics'
The dropping of charges comes in sharp contrast to what Devendra Fadnavis had promised before polls. "Ajit Pawar will have no space in the BJP. We will complete the irrigation scam probe and all involved will face action", Devendra Fadnavis had said while campaiging with Shiv Sena in bonhomie. But then the game changed when BJP refused to give in to Sena's demands of Chief Ministership.
BJP didn't have the numbers to form the government alone, and no other party could form the government either; leading to Maharashtra going under the President's Rule. Then on early Saturday, in a surreal move, Devendra Fadnavis took oath as the Chief Minister, proving newspaper predictions of Sena's Udhhav Thackeray becoming the CM with Congress & NCP's support wrong. This was made possible by Ajit Pawar who apparently acted on his own and tried to split NCP and joined hands with BJP. Dramatic, eh?
So, when the same Ajit Pawar was made the deputy CM of Maharashtra, many lamented but anticipated this alleged dropping of charges. But it's the brazenness and hurry with which the corruption charges against the deputy CM were dropped, begs the question that to what length our 'leaders' will go to remain in power.