The sanction of Rs eight lakh from Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for a dance troupe’s visit to Thailand sparked a row on Saturday with the opposition questioning the BJP-led government’s “priorities” at a time when the state is reeling under severe drought.
The chief minister, however, clarified that separate funds existed for cultural activities apart from drought relief.
An RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali found that chief minister Devendra Fadnavis approved Rs 8 lakh for a government employees dance troupe to participate in a competition in Bangkok in December. He sanctioned the sum that was transferred to Sachivalaya Gymkhana for the dance contest.
However, an official of the CMO said there is no wrongdoing in disbursing of the fund.
Registered in 1967 with the charity commissioner, the CM’s relief fund can be used for funding cultural activities, the official said, amid mounting criticism of the move.
Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi questioned the government’s priorities, calling it a “suit boot ki sarkar”.
Maharashtra Chief Minister's priorities. How insensitive can one be should be learnt from BJP-RSS. Suit boot sarkar. pic.twitter.com/Hb8gL2zWOx— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) October 24, 2015
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik told PTI that the state government “which does not have funds to help cancer and heart patients, was very prompt in giving money for the dance troupe’s visit to Thailand”.
The government should recover the money and if it fails to do so, Fadnavis should pay from his pocket, he said.
Reacting to the allegations, the chief minister sought to clarify the matter.
“To my surprise, I read in the news paper today that the same relief fund for drought had been sanctioned for the troupe to perform in Bangkok. I would like to clarify that there are three types of CM funds--one is for droughts, one is for Jalyukt Shivar (water conservation programme) and the third fund out of which 25 % of the fund is reserved for cultural activities. Out of that 25 %, we sponsor people for cultural activities,” Fadnavis said while addressing a Bar council of Maharashtra-Goa state lawyers’ conference on Saturday.
“So 15 of our government servants have been selected for performing at an Art competition in Bangkok, but somehow it has been shown that the “drought relief fund” has been spent instead,” Fadnavis added.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had earlier defended the charges against the chief minister, saying that false allegations against a ‘transparent’ and fair leader will not be “tolerated”.
“Accusing Devendra ji is not right because he is the only Chief Minister who raises his voice against corruption. His transparency, accountability and credibility are talked about across the nation. To those who are talking about the RTI against him, let them put out their findings first, then we will talk, but falsely accusing him before anything can be proved is plain wrong,” BJP leader Shaina NC told ANI on Saturday.
She asserted that the BJP leaders were being continuously targeted over an array of issues, because of the “insecurity” of the opposition.
The Gymkhana had sought aid to send its 15-member team of government employees to enable them to participate in a dance competition in Bangkok from December 26-30.
The 5th Cultural Olympiad of Performing Arts 2015 is being held in Bangkok by Global Council of Art and Culture.