Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) kicked off its Maharashtra chapter with a 110-km rally that began in Mumbai on Sunday.
The rally, which went through Navi Mumbai, culminated in a public gathering at Roha in Raigad district, the home ground of water resources minister Sunil Tatkare, who has been in the limelight and is on the AAP radar because of the alleged irregularities in state irrigation projects.
At its first public meeting after its formation in Maharashtra, the AAP released a black paper on irrigation to counter the claims made in the state’s white paper on irrigation, tabled in state Cabinet on Friday.
Apart from demanding that Tatkare resign, the AAP has demanded that a Special Investigation Team look into the scams and that projects that have violated laws be halted.
Kejriwal spoke on several issues, ranging from irrigation to poverty. “The country’s biggest irrigation scam took place in Maharashtra. It is only when farmers come together, join us and demand for rights that things will change,” he said.
Explaining his party’s agenda, Kejriwal said it has been formed not for power but to change the way the political system works.
“In December 2011, parties showed us their backs when we demanded Lokpal and challenged us to contest polls. That’s when we decided to form a political party. We will get into Parliament and make a difference.” Coming down on the white paper, Kejriwal said it was “an attempt to show that Ajit Pawar is innocent”.
Kejriwal alleged that the common man has suffered greatly because of several dam projects. “In Jawhar, Lendi dam uprooted people. At Karkunde dam in Ratnagiri, people sent up to live in the hills five years ago have still not been rehabilitated,” he said.
The AAP’s black paper called the white paper “farcical” and alleged that it has been brought out “on account of coalition of political compulsions”. It alleges that most projects have violated rehabilitation, forest and revenue laws. It also alleges that the amount spent to irrigate land - Rs. 21.67 lakh per hectare – is way above the cap of Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 2.5 lakh per hectare set by the central water commission.
Quoting a Greenpeace report on water, it claims Vidarbha has suffered the most because of water diversion from irrigation to power plants.