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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014

A numbers game beyond Pawar's math skills

Sujata Anandan, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, September 28, 2012
First Published: 00:12 IST(28/9/2012) | Last Updated: 12:59 IST(28/9/2012)

A piquant situation appears to have gripped the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress ahead of NCP president Sharad Pawar's visit to Mumbai on Friday to sort out the latest crisis in the Maharashtra government.

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At its heart is the irrigation scam, on which chief minister Prithviraj Chavan promised a white paper and has failed to deliver so far.

Much as the CM is being blamed for not publishing the white paper, sources told HT the matter is held up because of a face-off between the NCP-controlled irrigation department and its sister department agriculture, which is controlled by the Congress.

Pawar's nephew, Ajit Pawar — who resigned from the post of the deputy chief minister on Tuesday over allegations of involvement in the scam — had presided over the irrigation department for most of his 13 years in the Democratic Front government. Now his acolyte Sunil Tatkare holds the charge. 

The agriculture department is currently headed by Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, son of the doyen of the cooperative movement Balasheb Vikhe Patil, arch-rival of Pawar senior.

As for the white paper, to finalise it, the CMO needs data both from irrigation and agriculture department, sources told HT.

The irrigation department, however, is yet to put its facts and figures together. The agriculture department has its data in place – and there are huge gaps in the tally between the expenditure shown by the irrigation department and the benefits received by the agriculture department.

The agriculture department is unlikely to help the irrigation department obfuscate its figures to match the latter's and this was the chief reason for Ajit Pawar's tantrum.

It was also an attempt to block the CM's efforts to publish the mismatched figures. But the CM is under pressure too.

When he travels to rural areas, he has to answer villagers on why despite the enormous expenditure on irrigation projects, they have not received any water for their farms.

Now Chavan awaits instructions from his party high command on what to do with Ajit's resignation, which, in turn, waits for Sharad Pawar's decision.

But it is going to be a tough call for Pawar to reconcile the irrigation and the agriculture department figures — especially since he holds the Union agriculture ministry and has a hostile rival in the state department.

It appears to be a different sort of numbers game which might be beyond even Pawar senior's arithmetic.


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