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NCP Leader Ajit Pawar Given Clean Chit in Irrigation Scam Case  

The irrigation scam took place when Ajit Pawar was the Water Resources Minister in the Congress-NCP government.

Updated
India
4 min read
The irrigation scam took place when Ajit Pawar was the Water Resources Minister in the Congress-NCP government.
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Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, Ajit Pawar has been granted a clean chit by the Maharashtra’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in cases of alleged corruption in irrigation projects in the state.

According to a 16-page affidavit, the leader has been cleared of all allegations in the Vidarbha irrigation scam. ACB superintendent Rashmi Nandedkar, submitted the affidavit to the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court on 27 November.

The affidavit said that there is no criminal liability on part of the-then chairman of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) and the Minister of Water Resources Department (WRD), with respect to the process of granting sanctions, reported news agency ANI.

The probe agency said that all lapses which have occurred are by “executing agencies” like engineers, divisional accountant, respective contractors etc. and the onus of that can’t fall on Pawar.

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“The payment of EMD amount by the successful bidders for his competitors in some cases, issuing of tender booklets to some non-eligible bidders joint venture firms without following the pre-condition of the tenders etc. But these lapses are on the part of executing agencies of the tender work i.e engineers, divisional accountant and the respective contractors. The Chairman of the VIDC/Minister of WRD cannot be held responsible for executing agencies, as there is no legal duty on his part”
Maharashtra’s ACB’S affidavit as quoted by ANI

The ACB also stated in its enquiry report that there was no evidence of the Secretary of the Department, briefing Pawar, about not accepting the liability of the tender work, reported news agency ANI.

NCP: Vindicated About Ajit’s Innocence

Reacting to the Maharashtra Anti- Corruption Bureau's clean chit to party leader Ajit Pawar in the irrigation scam, the NCP said that it had always maintained that he was innocent.

“Ajit Pawar or any other minister did not commit any irregularity. The BJP’s false campaign is getting exposed now. We are happy that truth is coming out before the people.”
Nawab Malik, Chief spokesperson, NCP
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The Backdrop

Under the Congress-NCP coalition government from 1999 to 2014, Ajit Pawar was in charge of Maharashtra's irrigation department. As the the Water Resources Minister, he was the Ex-Officio Chairman of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation.

The ACB is inquiring into a total of 2,654 tenders related to 45 projects of VIDC as per two PILs filed in 2012 before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court.

On 25 November, the anti-graft agency had said it has closed probe in nine cases of alleged corruption in irrigation projects, but clarified none of them was linked to Pawar.

“These enquiries were closed as no criminal offence was made out after enquiry against anyone. None of these nine enquiries was in respect to Ajit Pawar, the then chairman of VIDC.”
Anti-Corruption Bureau

About the 27 November affidavit, a senior ACB official said the court had asked the agency to submit a 'status report' on the VIDC scam before 28 November.

"We have not closed inquiry into the VIDC cases. In some cases we have filed chargesheets and investigation is also going on. Similarly, investigation into FIRs related to these cases are also going on.

"We have submitted the status report on investigation going on into tenders that were issued (by VIDC)," he said.

He said the HC had asked the ACB to submit a report on the PIL filed by one Atul Jagtap concerning award of tenders for an irrigation project in Amravati. Pawar was named a respondent in this PIL.

"Concerning this we had, in our previous affidavit, written that we have referred this matter to the government for opinion. Now, we have got opinion from the government that Ajit Pawar was not involved in it (the scam) and this we have communicated to the court a few days back. Besides, Ajit Pawar was never an accused in any of our cases and investigation into Vidarbha irrigation tender cases are still on," the ACB official said.

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The 27 November affidavit said, "There are two allegations against the (then) chairman of VIDC (Pawar) - (A)regarding grant of sanction to the liability of the tender cost including that of updated cost and (B)grant of mobilisation advance to the contractor despite there was no mention of the same in the tender booklet."

The ACB said reports of several committees were also also taken into account. “Opinion given by the above authorities and the clarifications given by the ex-chairman officio of VIDC were taken into consideration along with other evidence collected during the enquiry.

"Also, the reports of the Nandkumar Vadnere committee, the HT Mendhegiri and the Dr Madhavrao Chitale committee are referred for the allegations in the PILs," it said.

The affidavit stated that nothing adverse regarding money trail linkages has been noticed so far. Also, neither documentary nor oral evidence could be gathered during probe till now.

"There are some procedural lapses, departmental irregularities such as sending some files and proposals by the executive director to the chairman without routing those through the managing director/ principal secretary of WRD."

There were also instances of lapses in the payment of EMD (Earnest Money Deposit) amount by successful bidders in some cases,issuing of tender booklets to some non-eligible bidders and JV firms without following preconditions of tenders, the anti-graft agency said.

The affidavit has asked for disposal of PILs. The scam, pegged at around Rs 70,000 crore, related to alleged corruption, cost escalations and irregularities in approval and execution of various irrigation projects during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rule.

The allegations against Pawar included claims that he awarded projects at inflated prices.

Last month, Pawar had rebelled and joined hands with the BJP to form a short-lived government in Maharashtra where he was deputy chief minister for just three days. He later resigned and returned to the NCP fold.

(With Inputs from ANI & PTI)

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