Even with a question mark over the political futures of senior NCP leaders Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal and Sunil Tatkare, political observers were doubtful about the outcome of the probe. They felt the BJP-led government will not gain anything except political mileage.
After the government sanction to probe the alleged corruption in the irrigation projects and the construction of Maharashtra Sadan, the drama is expected to unfold for the next few years.
Former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and former water resources minister Sunil Tatkare will have to go through the investigation led by top officers of the ACB. Similarly, former PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal will be investigated in the Maharashtra Sadan case.
According to the NCP insiders, the Chitale commission, constituted to probe the alleged financial irregularities in the irrigation projects, has already given a clean chit to the politicians, thus proving them innocent. “The committee has pointed fingers at the cost escalation in certain irrigation projects, but has not held Pawar or Tatkare responsible as ministers of the department. The former government has already initiated action against the officers involved,” a top leader said.
Pawar and Tatkare both have said they were ready to face an inquiry. “The BJP leaders had been announcing the probe even before the Assembly elections. Let the ACB probe the matter thoroughly and people will come to know there is no substance to the allegations,” said Pawar.
Hemant Desai, political commentator, said, “The case is likely to go the way earlier cases against the political leadership went. Be it the case against former chief minister AR Antulay in the cement scam or against Bhujbal in the Telgi scam — nothing was proved. In these cases too, I doubt, anything will come out. The BJP and Shiv Sena will, however, gain political mileage by creating an image that they are fighting corruption.”
Former police officers associated with the ACB, too, admitted it may prove difficult to take the case to a logical end. “It all depends on the investigation. If the officers lodged FIRs against the politicians and filed strong charge sheets and officers involved in the scam proved there was pressure and orders from their political bosses, the leaders can be convicted. But the contention of the political bosses that they signed the proposal brought before them by the department gives them every reason to escape. If they succeed in proving the commission or omission was within reasonable doubts, they may do away without any action,” he said.
In Maharashtra Sadan case, Bhujbal has been contesting the proposal of allotting additional FSI to the contractor, in lieu of construction of three government buildings, which was passed by the cabinet sub-committee headed by then chief minister.