A day after former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan attacked him over the irrigation scam, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar told HT his former Cabinet colleague had tried everything, including hunting for documentary evidence, to nail him in the scam, but failed.
“I am ready to face any investigation on this issue,’’ he said.
Pawar also denied the alliance broke because of his personal ambition and pointed out his party would have compromised on the demand for the chief minister’s post, if the Congress had shown willingness to talk. Pawar added the NCP will do its best to defeat Chavan in his home turf, Karad south, by supporting independent candidate and sitting legislator Vilas Patil Undalkar.
Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in an interview with HT said you could face a fate similar to that of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa in the irrigation scam.
He is free to say anything for the sake of argument. I am ready to face any type of investigation. Even the Madhav Chitale committee [which probed the irrigation scam] has not named me or any minister in the scam. I have signed files only after officials from the water resources department cleared the proposals. The entire scam was unearthed because of infighting among officials in the department.
Chavan has tried everything possible, including trying to dig up documentary evidence against me, with the intention to pin me down. He has not succeeded because I have never indulged in any kind of corruption.
Why did you allege Chavan cleared 12 to 20 public parking FSI proposals hurriedly before the code of conduct set in?
He cleared numerous files related to the housing and urban development departments a few days before the code of conduct set in. We were surprised to see the kind of efficiency, which was missing for the past four years. I have heard that he allotted FSI of 1.8 to township projects, much more than the regular FSI of 0.5. In some cases, it has been hiked to 5 from 4. Some builders were favoured while clearing the files.
What kind of real estate files were cleared? Can you elaborate?
According to information I have gathered from my sources, the builders that were kept waiting for four years were invited by his office to clear the files during the last few days of the government. I don’t know what the motivation was, and if there was any financial consideration.
Why did NCP withdraw support to the government?
We had no ethical right to support the government run by the Congress, with whom we had snapped the ties. We were facing the elections and hence we are answerable to the voters, who would not have accepted our support from outside.
Chavan claimed the NCP has a secret pact with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and pulling out of the government was the part of it.
There is no hidden agenda or plan to have a post-poll alliance with the BJP. Chavan has been attacking us to keep his inefficiency and non-performance in past four years under wraps. By attacking us, he has been trying to divert attention from his shortcomings.
You seem to be blaming Chavan for the breakdown in talks.
Chavan remained unresponsive to seat-sharing talks. He also did not keep other senior party leaders in the loop during the discussions. We had made an indirect offer of 135 seats to the Congress through one of their senior state leaders. So it is not like we did not compromise on our initial demand of 144 seats. But Chavan did not respond to the offer. He instead asked our party leader Praful Patel to have a one-on-one meeting with him on seat sharing. His problem is he does not trust people and could not win trust among his Cabinet and party leaders. He has no supporters even in his own party. When I slammed him for more than half-an-hour over the non-performance of the government in one of the Cabinet meetings ahead of the Lok Sabha election, none of his party ministers stood by him. In fact, a few of them congratulated me and said I should have taken this stand earlier.
It is being said the NCP wants to get back at the CM by trying to engineer his defeat in the polls.
Yes, we plan to fight tooth and nail against Chavan in the Karad south constituency. We will support independent legislator and Congress rebel Vilas Patil Undalkar [NCP’s official candidate has withdrawn his nomination].