Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s move to probe the working of the state’s irrigation department is the main provocation for the revolt by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) against Congress at the Centre.
In the corridors of power in Maharashtra, the mess in the irrigation sector, controlled by the NCP, is well known. In the past decade, the state spent Rs. 42,500 crore on several projects but failed to increase the area under irrigation by more than even 5%. Moreover, an amount of Rs. 75,000 crore is required to complete pending projects, which have been languishing from periods ranging from five years to three decades.
Despite this, the past three chief ministers of the state, Ashok Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde, had studiously refused to step into this NCP bastion.
So, when Chavan called for a white paper on irrigation in May this year, detailing money spent on projects and actual potential created over the past decade, he knew he was stirring a hornet’s nest. Chavan’s snub to NCP and deputy chief minister and union minister Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar could not have gone unchallenged by the junior alliance partner. Sources in the Congress and NCP admitted that the current standoff between the two parties has more to do with the irrigation mess in Maharashtra than anything else.