Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar seems all set to return to the state cabinet after the white paper on irrigation was made public. T
he document, which does not have any observations on corruption allegations that got Pawar to quit in September, is likely to facilitate the leader’s comeback to the Mantralaya.
Political pundits believe that the white paper on the Rs.70,000-crore projects, a collection of figures and calculations, is nothing but a subtle effort to absolve Pawar and his party colleagues who headed the department at different times. The report was discussed at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.
The paper says the cost of the project escalated because of interference from legislators of all parties, and subsequent changes made to the project design and inordinate delays in getting approvals, rehabilitation and land acquisition.
It also states how high inflation added to the cost of material, machines and labour and growing urbanisation took away water for drinking purposes.
Despite all odds, the paper states, the department could increase irrigation by 28% as against the alleged 0.1%.
The department has decided to cut costs by completing projects on a priority basis. To ensure transparency in future, the department had suggested that all regional irrigation corporations seek approval from Mantralaya.
Another hurdle that Ajit is expected to overcome is a separate government-level probe initiated after water resources chief engineer Vijay Pandhare’s scathing attack on his own department.
A Congress minister told HT that chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and NCP chief Sharad Pawar have already approved the white paper.
“The NCP kept the deputy chief minister’s position vacant. Coalition dharma expects the two to call a truce because the allegations have done enough damage to the NCP, ” the minister said.
Opposition parties have opposed the white paper. “We will publish a black paper to nail the government,” said Vinod Tawde, opposition leader in the legislative council. The Aam Admi Party, too, will publish its own paper on December 2.