The Bharatiya Janata Party has been facing heat all through the month of June. The party, which is already in a spot over the controversy surrounding some of its senior ministers at the Centre and a chief minister in Rajasthan, is now under fire in Maharashtra.
Even before the row over education minister Vinod Tawde's fake degree had hardly died down, an alleged Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) scam involving women and child development minister Pankaja Munde erupted. And then the Devendra Fadnavis government had to battle allegations of financial impropriety against Tawde.
Tawde has been accused of clearing a Rs 191-crore proposal to purchase 62,105 fire extinguishers for zila parishad schools in February without the mandatory e-tendering, by allegedly citing a Supreme Court order passed in 2009 that set a six-month deadline for installation of the facility in multi-level schools.
Here is a lowdown on what and hows of the Maharashtra BJP's troubles:Tawde's fake degree
Tawde had, in his election affidavit, said he had obtained degree in engineering from the Dnyaneshwar University, which was not recognised by the UGC or AICTE Lonikar mentioned his qualification as FYBA from Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU) in his election affidavit in 1991. In his affidavit in 2014, he mentioned he has completed education till Class 5 from zila parishad school at Loni (Khurd) in Partur Tehsil of Parbhani district in 1973.Paying for chikkis, water purifiers
Munde has been accused of irregularities in giving contracts under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Around 24 orders for purchase contracts for chikki, water purifiers, books were issued in one day. Munde’s department has been accused of giving the contracts in violation of norms on the basis of work contract, instead of adopting e-tendering. The Congress has lodged a complaint with the ACB, seeking action against Munde. Munde has called the allegations a political conspiracy and said the contracts were given as per the rules.
Heat from fire extinguishers
The state finance department, in January, raised questions over a Rs 191-crore proposal to purchase 62,105 fire extinguishers for government-run zila parishad schools. Tawde had cleared the proposal, citing a Supreme Court order that made installation of fire extinguishers mandatory for schools. Only Rs 19 crore were available as per the outlay, which was to expire on March 31. The purchases were to be done on the basis of work contract and not e-tenders. However, the finance department raised questions, following which Tawde put the proposal on hold.Sting row
In a secretly shot video , BJP MLA from Colaba Raj Purohit was seen criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's economic policies and commenting on Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. The video that appeared on the website of several news channels on Friday left the state BJP red-faced, following which state BJP president Raosaheb Danve issued a disciplinary notice seeking an explanation. On Tuesday, Purohit sought more time from the party to give an explanation. Danve told the media Purohit met him and submitted a letter seeking 15 days to reply to the notice.
Opposition up in arms
"Why did Tawde go ahead and issue a government resolution (GR) of Rs 191 crore, even while he knew the department had just Rs18 crore left? So if the finance department had not raised a query, it would have gone ahead and shown an increase. By saying an internal inquiry was demanded and that they haven’t spent any money, the government is only trying to fool people," said Opposition leader Dhananjay Munde.
BJP's firefighting mode
Tawde has refuted the allegations of impropriety stating they were unjustified considering the proposal was put on hold after the finance department objected to it. Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has also held a series of press meets along with cooperation minister Chandrakant Patil in favour of Tawde.
"It is an attempt to malign the government. There is no controversy considering no money was spent. After a fire in Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court had asked all governments to install fire extinguishers in schools. Tawde was only complying with the order, which was partly executed by the previous Congress government," said Mungantiwar.
While the BJP finds itself cornered over allegations of irregularities in handing out work orders, those in the government claim the ambiguity over the tendering procedure is, at least partially, to be blamed for it.
The finance department has now decided to phase out the rate contract method, in which tenders are called on the basis of fixed prices for common commodities brought in bulk and for a fixed term decided by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
"We are in the process of issuing a new government resolution (GR) to reduce the amount under which a rate contract can be given. We made e-tenders mandatory for contracts between Rs 1 crore and Rs 5 crore in April. We now plan to bring down the amount in the range of Rs 50 lakh to Rs 2 crore for each department for a year," said Mungantiwar.
The minister admitted there was confusion over the tendering method, as too many departments and methods were being used for purchase."We have set up a committee of officials to come up with a standardised purchase policy for the government. With several departments purchasing similar commodities for different scheduled prices, there is duplication. Rate contracts were used extensively for 15 years. We are committed to bringing in a transparent system," said Mungantiwar.