Even as Opposition parties are putting pressure on the state government for announcing a probe into the alleged multi-crore irrigation scam, differences have emerged within the ruling alliance itself, over the nature of the probe.
Sources said that while the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had suggested a probe by a technical committee of retired bureaucrats and irrigation experts, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan rejected the idea following differences within the NCP on who would be appointed to conduct the probe. The NCP had also suggested that the probe by the technical body should be mentioned in the white paper it released on irrigation.
“There was no unanimity over the names [of experts in the committee]. The chief minister was not happy with the NCP picking retired bureaucrats of its choice for the probe. He wanted a bigger investigation into the scam,” said a key official, requesting not to be named.
Now that the Opposition has raised the demand for an SIT probe into the scam, the Chavan camp is reportedly insisting on a judicial inquiry into the scam. Though there is no official proposal on this, sources in the camp claim that Chavan has suggested the issue to NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
The NCP has not reacted to the issue. Its official stance is that there is no wrongdoing in the irrigation projects.
Allegations of the multi-crore scam centre on unjustified cost escalations in irrigation projects and meager addition to the state’s irrigation potential, despite spending thousands of crores of rupees in the last 10 years.
While the Opposition has alleged a scam to the tune of Rs70,000 crore, the white paper issued by the government says it spent Rs 42,000 crore on irrigation projects.
NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who was irrigation minister for a large part of the last decade, resigned as deputy chief minister in September in the light of uproar over the alleged scam. However, he returned to the Cabinet earlier this month after the white paper was released.
Meanwhile, a debate on the irrigation scam is likely early next week after the proceedings of the state legislature resume after the weekend.